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EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS 
OF INDIA 


A Comprehensive Survey of the Sacred Lore of the Hindus, 
Buddhists and Jains 


BY 

P. THOMAS 

Author ol "Women and Marriage in India", 
"Hindu Religion, Customs and Manners", 
"Christians & Christianity in India & Pakistan'*, 
"Kama Kalpa”, 

"The Story of the Cultural Empire of India" etc. 


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1961 


(G-DSB) 

Published by J. H. D. Taraporevala, B.A., for Messrs. D. B. Taraporevala 
Sons A Co., Private Ltd., D. Naoroji Road, Fort, Bombay, and Printed by 
Z, T. Bandnkwata at The Leaders’ Press Private Ltd.. Bombay jo 


AUTHOR’S ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 


A List of the principal works I have consulted in writing this book will be found in the bibliography at the 
end of the book. Wherever I have quoted at length from any work, the book or the author has been particularly 
mentioned. 

I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. R. J. Mehta, M.Sc., Ph.D., (B'ham) and Mr. P. V. Kane, 
M.A., LL.B., for giving me valuable suggestions ; to the Director General of Archaeology, New Delhi, and the 
Curator, Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay, for allowing me to see the albums and various 
publications in their offices and select the illustrations. My deepest debt of gratitude is due to Mr. J. H. Tara, 
porevala who originated the idea of the book and has helped me in many ways to write it. 

I should also acknowledge the help I received from my sister Eliza in preparing the Index and Glossary 
of the book. 


P.- THOMAS. 



NOTE TO THE ELEVENTH EDITION 

Apart from additional illustrations, the Buddhist section has been considerably enlarged in this edition. 

It is a matter o! satisfaction for me to see that the interest in Indian lore the book has evoked, both in 
India and abroad, is on the increase, and my labours in the field have been fully appreciated by the scholar and 
general reader alike. The demand for a new edition of the book speaks for itself and makes farther comments 
by me superfluous. 


P. THOMAS. 


NOTE TO THE FIFTH EDITION 

A Jain friend recently pointed out to me that no book on Indian myth and legend can be considered 
complete without an account of the mythology of the Jains. In appreciation of the force of his argument 
I have, in this edition, added a chapter on Jainism. Though Jainism has much in common with Hinduism 
it is still a separate religion with a lore of its own. Besides, it is one of the living religions of India and has, 
unlike Buddhism, considerable following in the land of its birth. 

The inclusion of Jainism has naturally enlarged the scope of illustrations, and a number of plates have 
been added in this edition and the size of the book has considerably increased. 


P. THOMAS. 


PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 

When I sent the manuscript of the original edition of this work to the publishers, I had considerable 
misgivings about the popularity of the subject. But the sale of a fairly large edition of the book within a short 
time proves that the fundamental human craving for myths and legends cannot be adversely affected even by 
global wars, famines and mass massacres. 

I had covered sufficient ground in the original edition which has saved me the trouble of making sub- 
stantial changes in this one. Yet as nothing, myths not excluded, can ever remain static, I have made some 
alterations and additions which, I hope, would add to the attraction of the book. The story of Hariscbandra 
in Chapter XIII, is a notable addition made at the request of a Hindu friend who wishes "to dispel the notion 
some Europeans have that the Hindus are a lying lot”. I must apologize for not having included this story 
in the original edition ; for the story, though designed to drive home a moral, is singularly beautiful and is one 
of the most popular among the Hindus. 


P.THOMA5. 



CONTENTS 


PAGE 

INTRODUCTION ... x 

Part I 
' HINDUISM 

CHAPTER I. COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC MYTHS lx 

„ II. THE HINDU PANTHEON (GODS) 20 

„ III. THE HINDU PANTHEON (GODS) — continued 38 

„ IV. THE HINDU PANTHEON (GODDESSES)-c<wc/u*i 54 

„ V. PRAJAPATIS. MANUS. R1SHIS. KINNARAS, GANDIIARVAS, APSARAS 

AND THE DEMI -GODS OF THE MAHABHARATA ftj 

„ VI. ENEMIES OF THE GODS 8z 

„ VII. DEATH AND SOUL- WANDERINGS 93 

<t VIII. LOVE AND SEX X03 

IX. THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND PLANETS 113 

„ X. ANIMALS AND BIRDS 122 

„ XI. TREES, PLANTS AND FLOWERS 133 

,. XII. PRINCIPAL HINDU HOLIDAYS 

„ XIII. SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 143 

Part II 

BUDDHISM AND JAINISM 

CHAPTER XIV. THE BUDDHA 161 

„ XV. JATAKA TALES *7$ 

„ XVI. JAINISM 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 201 

GLOSSARY AND INDEX - 03 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


plate between 

PAGES 

I. i GANESHA 

II. 2 NARAYANA 

3 MAHAPRALAYA 

HI. 4 KALKI 

5 VISHNU • • , . .. ,, a a . . ,, . . , , , , # . ,, to— it 

IV. 6 BRAHMA 

7 GANESHA 

V. 8 WORSHIP OF BRAHMA 16-17 

9 SHIVA AS TRINITY 16-17 

10 A HOLY MAN 16-17 

If BRAHMA'S TEMPLE 16-17 

VI. 12 HANUMAN 16-17 

13 MONKEYS BUILDING RAMA'S BRIDGE 16-17 

VII. 14 HANUMAN ANNOUNCING SITA'S ACQUITTAL 16-17 

15 REUNION OF RAMA AND SITA 16-17 

VIII. 16 HANUMAN BEFORE RAVANA 16-17 

17 PAVAN AND ACNI 16-17 

IX. 18 RAMA AND SITA RETURNING TO AYODHYA 24-25 

19 RAMA. SITA AND HANUMAN 24-25 

X. 20 FISH INCARNATION 24-25 

21 BOAR INCARNATION 24-25 

2* NARASIMHA 24-25 

23 VAMANA 24-25 

XI. 24 PERSECUTION OF PRAHLAD 24-25 

25 A VAISHNAVA 24-25 

26 CALL TO DEVOTIONAL DUTIES 24-25 

XII. 27 HANUMAN INSULTING RAVANA 24-25 

28 BHIMA LIFTING HANUMAN'S TAIL 34-25 

29 LAKSHMANA WOUNDED 24-25 

30 HANUMAN WITH THE HILL GROWING MAGIC HERB 24-25 

XIII. 3J HANUMAN KILLING AN ASURA 32-33 

32 HANUMAN KILLING AN ASURA . . . . 32-33 

33 HANUMAN RECEIVING RAMA'S RING 3*-33 

34 HANUMAN PRESENTING THE RING TO SITA 32-33 

XIV. 35 RAMA, HIS HALF BROTHERS, SITA AND HANUMAN 32-33 

36 SITA UNDER THE ASOKA TREE 32“33 

37 RAVANA WOOING SITA 

XV. 38 THE TRIAL OF THE BOW 32“33 

39 BHARATA'S ARRIVAL IN CHITRAKUTA 32-33 

XVI. 40 ANGADA AND THE MONKEY CHIEFS 32-33 

4! RAMA ENTHRONED 3*-33 

XVII. 42 THE MONKEYS BESIEGE LANKA 40-4* 

43 KUMBHAKARNA DEVOURING THE MONKEYS 4°-4* 

XVIII. 44 KRISHNA 4°-4 I 

45 VASUDEVA CARRYING KRISHNA 

XIX. 46 VISHNU REPOSING ON ANANTA 

47 CHURNING OF THE MILK OCEAN 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PLATE BETWEEN 

PAGES 

XX. *8 KRISHNA RIDING COMPOSITE HORSE OF GOPIS 40-41 

49 KRISHNA SUBDUING KALIYA 40-41 

50 KRISHNA WITH GOVARDHANA 40-41 

51 KRISHNA AND BALARAMA KILLING WRESTLERS 40-41 

XXI. 52 KRISHNA AND THE GOPIS 48-49 

53 RASALILA 48-49 

XXII. 54 PARVATI EMBRACING THE LINGAM .. .. 48-49 

55 WORSHIP OF THE LINGAM 48-49 

56 KRISHNA PLAYING ON THE FLUTE 48-49 

37 RADHA AND KRISHNA 48-49 

XXIII. 58 DEATH OF BALARAMA 48-49 

XXIV. 59 KRISHNA PLAYING ON THE FLUTE 48-49 

60 VISHNU RIDING ON GARUDA 48-49 

6t BIRTH OF KRISHNA 48-49 

6* VISHNU WITH LAK 5 HM 1 AND PR1THV1 48-49 

XXV. 63 DEVAKI NURSING KRISHNA 36-37 

64 KRISHNA LIFTING GOVARDHANA 58-57 

XXVI. 65 COWS LISTENING TO KRISHNA'S FLUTE 56~57 

66 KRISHNA WITH GOPIS' CLOTHES 36-57 

67 SURYA 56-57 

68 VARUNA 56-57 

XXVII. 69 VISHNU AND LAKSHMI ON GARUDA 56-57 

70 BALARAMA 56-57 

71 KING OF THE NAGAS 56-57 

7a A HINDU ASTROLOGER t 56-57 

XXVIII. 73 A SHAIVA TEMPLE ATTENDANT 56-57 

74 MARRIAGE OF SHIVA AND PARVATI 56-57 

75 FAMILY OF SHIVA 56-57 

76 ASCETIC PRACTISING SELF TORTURE 56-57 

XXIX. 77 SHIVA AND PARVATI ON MOUNT KAILAS .. .. 56-57 

XXX. 78 SHIVA 56-57 

79 SHIVA DESTROYING AN ASURA 36-57 

80 SHIVA AND PARVATI 56-57 

81 NANDI 56-57 

XXXI. 82 PARVATI 56-57 

83 GANESHA 56-57 

84 DANCING SHIVA 56-57 

85 SHIVA DANCING 56-57 

XXXVII, 86 SHIVA AND ARJUNA FIGHTING 56-57 

87 MAHISHASURAMAKPINI 56-57 

88 SHIVA AS HUNTER 5®-57 

89 SHIVA DESTROYING AN ASURA 56-57 

XXXIII. 90 KARTIKEYA 64-65 

91 LINGAM AND YONI 64-65 

XXXIV. 92 ASCETICS OF SHIVA 64-65 

XXXV. 93 KUMARA WITH HIS TWO WIVES 64-65 

94 PARVATI 64-65 

95 SURYA 64-65 

XXXVI. 96 NARADA 64-65 

97 OFFERING OF POISON TO SHIVA 64-65 

98 FIVE FACED IMAGE OF GANESHA 64-65 

99 KARTIKEYA .. 64-65 



USX OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PLATE 


BETWEEN 

PAGES 


XXXVII. 

XXXVIII. 

XXXIX. 

XL. 

XLI. 

XLII. 

XLIII. 

XLIV. 

XLV. 

XLVI. 

XL VII. 

XLVIII. 

XLIX. 

L. 

LI. 

UL 


100 INDRA 

101 K HAND EUR AO AND CONSORT 

102 SARASVATI 

103 RAVANA 

104 INDRA ON AIRAVATAM 

ICS ICUBERA 

ioO AGNI 

107 SHIVA RIDINC ON NANDI 

105 BRAHMA .. .. 

109 PARASURAMA 

110 KRISHNA DANCING ON KAUYA .. 

111 SURYA RIDING IN HIS CHARIOT .. 

1 13 WORSHIP OF AGNI 

113 KUBERA 

114 A VAISHNAVA 

115 SOME VILLAGE IDOLS 

116 DESTRUCTION OF MAHISHASURA . . 

117 A DOOR FRAME IN VINDKYAV ASINl TEMPLE 

1 18 SRI 

119 SCULPTURES OF KALI 

120 VISHNU AS MOHINI 

121 CHANDIKA 

122 DURCA’S FIGHT WITH MAHISHASURA .. 

123 DURGA DESTROYING AN ASURA .. 

124 DURGA RIDING ON HER CHARGER 

125 PARVATI WORSHIPPING THE UNGAM .. 

126 SARASVATI 

127 SHIVA PARVATI 

12& IAKSKJ.lt 

129 GANTS HA, DURGA, KARTIKEYA .. 

130 INDRANI 

131 BHAVANI 

132 ARDHANARI 

133 DEVI 

134 WORSHIP OF DURGA BY GODS .. 

13J GANGA 

136 SARASVATI 

137 YAMUNA 

138 THE SAGE KAPILA 

139 PARVATI 

240 CHAMUNDI 

14 1 KAUMARI 

142 MAHESWARI 

143 VARAHI 

144 VAISHNAVI .. .. 

145 INDRAANt 

146 BRAHMI 

147 GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE .. 

148 A GAY RISHI 

249 DAKSHA AND WIFE .. , .. 

150 GANDHARVA ' •* 

151 KINNARA ON LOTUS 


72-73 

7*"73 
7**73 
7*“73 
7**73 
7*-73 
7*~73 
7*-7 3 
7**73 
7*~73 
7*“73 
7*“73 
7**73 

7**73 

7*~73 

7*~73 

8o-8« 


80-81 
8o-8z 
80-81 
80-81 
80-81 
80-Si 
80-8 1 
80-81 
80-81 
80-81 
8S-89 
88-89 
88-S9 
88-89 

88-89 

8S-89 

88-89 

8S-89 

88-89 

SS-89 

88-89 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 

96-97 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PLATE BETWEEN 

PAGES 


LII1. 152 A STUDIOUS RISHI •• 104-105 

153 BRAHMA 

LIV. 154 VYASA 

155 ARJUNA WINNING DRAUP ADI .. .. , 104-105 

156 DENUDATION OF DRAUPADI 104-105 

157 BHIMA CAUGHT BY THE ELEPHANT B1IAGADATTA 104-105 

LV. 15a DEATH OF BHISHMA >• 104-105 

159 FAMILY OF SHIVA 104-105 

LVI. 160 APSARAS ALLURING SAGES 104-105 

LVII. 1C1 MAN ASA *• H2-1I3 

162 MQHINl DANCING II2-H3 

163 DURGA KILLING MAHISIIASURA 

164 A RAKSHASA m-«3 

LVIII. 165 CREMATION m-113 

LIX. ifi6 TORTURES OF HELL 

167 YAMA 

LX. 168 PLANETS AND SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC 

LXI. 169 YAMUNA 120-121 

170 NAGA AND N AGIN I 120-121 

171 WORSHIPPING THE SUN 

172 GIVING ALMS 

LXII. 173 GARUDA AND HANUMAN 120-12I 

174 CHANDRA 

LXI II. 173 KALI X20-IH 

176 HANUMAN 120-111 

177 KAMA 120-1*1 

LX1V. 178 A SHAIVA MENDICANT 

179 GARUDA WITH A NAGINI 

180 GANESHA 120-1*1 

181 UMA 120-1*1 

LXV. 182 HANUMAN .. .. 128-129 

183 SANI 1*8-129 

LX VI. 184 BANYAN TREE ,, .. 1 28-129 

LXVII. 185 TREE WORSHIP 128-129 

186 WORSHIPPING THE TULSI PLANT 

187 PRAYING PILGRIMS ON THE GANGES 128-129 

188 A DYING MAN BROUGHT TO THE GANGES 128-129 

LXVIII. i8g BEGGARS 1 HARVEST ON DASARA DAY 128-129 

190 HOLI DANCERS 128-129 

191 THROWING COCOANUTS INTO THE SEA ON COCOANUT DAY 

192 CHOWPATHI BEACH ON SHIVARATRI DAY 128-129 

LXIX. 193 DASARA PROCESSION, MYSORE 136-137 

194 DASARA CELEBRATION, MYSORE 136-137 

195 LAKSHMI, GODDESS OF WEALTH 136-137 

LXX. 196 DURGA PUJA l3®-*37 

LXXI. 197 THE FEAST OF SERPENTS 

‘ .LXXII. 198 HINDU MARRIAGE CEREMONY 136-137 

LXXHI. 199 CAR PROCESSION OF JDOLS . 146-147 

LXXIV. 200 BATHING CERElJoNY QF JAGANNATH * .. .. .. ..146-147 

LXXV. 2oi DESCENT OF THE GANGES 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ^ 

PLATE BETWEEN 

PAGES 

LXXVL 20* VITHOBA 

203 AN ATTENDANT OF JAGANNATH TEMPLE 

204 KRISHNA SUBDUING KAUYA ” 150-151 

205 REPEATING THE GAYATRI *’ 150-151 

LXXVII. *06 ANASUYA 

*07 WORSHIP OF GANESHA 154-135 

208 DATTATREYA 154-155 

209 WORSHIP OF HANUMAN 154-155 

LXXVII I. 2J o KATHA 154-155 

LXXIX. 311 ARDHANARI .. •• .. .. .. .. 11 .■ .. .. .. .. 158-159 

312 WORSHIP OF GANGA 158-159 

213 JAGANNATH 158-159 

214 ANNAPURNA DEVI *58-159 

LXXX. 213 BUDDHA FROM TANJORE 138-159 

216 BUDDHA FROM MAYURBHANJ 158-159 

LXXXI. 217 QUEEN MAHAMAYA’S DREAM 164-165 

318 BIRTH AND SEVEN STEPS 164-165 

219 NATIVITY OF THE BUDDHA 164-165 

LXXXII. 220 CASTING THE HOROSCOPE OF THE BUDDHA 164-165 

221 GAUTAMA APPROACHING THE BODHI TREE 164-165 

222 PRESENTATION OF THE CHILD TO THE SAGF. 164-165 

LXXXIII. 313 THE BODHI TREE 164-165 

224 SUBJUGATION OF THE ELEPHANT MALAGIRI 164-165 

225 StDDHARTHA MEETING AN ASCETIC 164-165 

2*6 A BUDDHIST MONK 164-165 

LXXXI V. 227 CONVERSION OF NANDA 164-165 

228 BODHrSATVA IN TUSITA HEAVEN 164-165 

329 SUMEDHA MEETING 164-165 

230 BODHISATVA UNDER MUSALIND'S PROTECTION 164-165 

LXXXV. 231 ATTACK OF MARA 

23a MAHAKAPI J AT AKA 

333 STATUE OF BODHISATVA * 7*~*73 

LXXXVI. 234 DIVISION OF RELICS *7*-*7J 

335 DEVADATTA AND THE ASSASSINS i7*“>73 

236 FIRST SERMON 

237 SCENES DEPICTING CONVERSION OF NANDA l7*-*73 

LXXXVII. 338 CHADANTA J AT AKA 

239 MIRACLE AT SRIVASTI 

240 FEASTING BY MALLAS OF KUSINAGRA 

LXXXVIII. 241 THE SAGE BEHOLDING THE CHILD 

242 THE ELEPHANT CHADANTA 

243 BUDDHA AND RAHULA 

244 StDDHARTHA ABOUT TO DEPART FROM HOME 172-173 

LXXXIX. 245 THE GREAT DECEASE 

246 SIDDHARTHA'S DRIVE THROUGH THE CITY 176-177 

. XC, 247 A BUDDHIST PILGRIM 

243 ADORATION OF THE STUPA 

249. 250 SCULPTURES OF THE BUDDHA 

XCI. 251 ADORATION OF THE WHEEL OF THE LAW •* — * 7&~ l 77 

251 KUBERA AND HARITI 77 

253 THE BUDDHA TEACHING THE 

254 WORSHIP OF THE ALMSBQWL OF THE BUDDHA - — 1 7 6-I 77 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PLATE BETWEEN 

PAGES 

XCII. 255 WORSHIP OF THE RELICS OF THE BUDDHA 176-177 

256 ADORATION OF THE BUDDHA 176-177 

257 ENLIGHTENMENT *76-177 

XCIII. 258 ASOKA AND QUEEN WORSHIPPING THE BODH 1 TREE 184-185 

259 A STUPA 184-185 

XCIV. 260 THE GREAT RENUNCIATION 184-185 

261 THE BUDDHA'S COFFIN 184-185 

262 GAUTAMA MEETING HIS FUTURE WIFE .. ..184-185 

263 MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT IN THE PALACE 184-185 

XCV. 264 JAIN SAINT GAUTAMESHWARA 184-185 

265 A JAIN GODDESS 184-185 

266 THE JAIN SCHOLAR HEMACHANDRA SURI 184-185 

XCVI. 267 TRISALA IN HER PALACE 184-185 

268 TRISALA REJOICING AT THE MOVEMENT OF THE FOETUS 1B4-185 

269 PLUCKING OF THE HAIR 184-185 

270 CONSECRATION OF TRISALA 184-185 

XCVII. 271 A DIGAMBARA MONK IN PROCESSION 191-193 

27a A JAIN DEPUTATION 191-193 

273 SCENE FROM A JAIN TEMPLE 192-193 

XCVI1I. 274 S 1 DDHARTHA AND TRISALA 192-193 

273 NIRVANA OF PARSVANATH 192-193 

276 TRISALA RECOUNTING HER DREAM TO SIDDHARTHA 192-193 

277 BIRTH OF MAHAVIRA 192-193 

XCIX. 278 KUNTANATHA 192-193 

279 A JAIN STATUETTE 192-19J 

280 TRISALA WITH ATTENDANTS 191-193 

281 TIRTHANKARA PARSVANATH 192-193 

282 KUNTANATHA 192-193 

283 MAHAVIRA 192-193 

C. 284 A JAIN MARRIAGE PROCESSION 192-193 

285 A JAIN LAYMAN 192-193 

286 JAIN SCULPTURE AND ORNAMENT 191-193 



INTRODUCTION 


T HE science of medicine, they say, grew out of black-magic. The homed witch-doctor 
was the forerunner of our physicians and surgeons. His cauldron of crabs, scorpions, 
vipers, hyena’s teeth and noxious weeds was the first laboratory, in the world ; and 
out of it grew the science of chemistry and medicine. Similarly, art, religion and philosophy 
had a low origin in myths. 


To a child, the stone over which it slips and falls, and the thorny bush on which 
it hurts its fingers appear to be beings with a malicious intent. It kicks the stone and 
frowns at the bush. We all remember our childhood days when clouds and rocks, plants 
and flowers could frighten or please us. We used to fondle, clothe and feed inanimate 
toys. Night had unknown terrors for us, and in spite of the assurances of our parents 
and nurses, we seldom ventured into the dark. Now, humanity in the lump can be con- 
ceived as an organism with a being, and the fears, hopes, despair and curiosity of the child- 
hood days of mankind are embodied in myths and legends and have come down to us in 
traditions sacred and profane. 


Man is curious by nature and seeks causes of effects. To us modems, science has 
been able to give satisfactory explanations for the immediate causes of phenomena, al though 
the ultimate cause, to be sure, remains an enigma even to the most erudite. But to primitive 
man even the immediate causes of everyday occurrences w ere mvsteries. Take, for example, 
the case of rainfall. While we at present know what causes rain, to primitive man rainfall 
u-as an enigma. He beheld the pleasant wonder of water falling from the sky upon the 
parched earth, causing vegetation to grow and clothe the earth m green. But where did 
the water come from ? Air, obviously, could not support water. Nor could his primitive 
mind trace any connection between clouds and the ocean. His brain worked in the narrow- 
sphere of his own limited experience and he came to the conclusion that there was a solid 
world above, capable of holding waters, and the lord of that world, well-disposed towards 
man, released the waters of the celestial lake for the benefit of humans. To worship him 
was the duty of grateful man. Thunder, lightning and storm proclaimed his prowess 
and the rainbow', the sun, the moon and the star-studded heavens, the splendour of his 
abode. 


We must remember that science is very young. As late as *! e us 

when Columbus made known his intention to travel westward to reach the Ea* t and I thus 
put to test the theory of a round earth, wise men thought him math Many king* and 
learned doctors refused to listen to him, and he had to K° i SJ 

capital to another for a ship and crew. So deep-rooted was the Chnstian belief static 
earth and a geographical heaven peopled by Cherubim and ruled } J ' persecuted 

Copernicus (in the sixteenth century) proclaimed that the earth is mobile, he was persecuted 
by priests as a heretic 1 

Before Columbus the world was not correctly mapped Even ' ww 

enlightened of ancient Europeans, knew little about the world and its ™ > . 

acquainted with thoraces that inhabited countr.es bordering on the Eas tc :rn . ■ 
of other peoples their knowledge was based on travellers tales '™ions a 

Father of History (fifth centu?y B.C.) gives us, in Ins admirable history of 



INTRODUCTION 


when the Buddha's doctrines were gaining ground in this country ! Herodotus had travelled 
through Asia Minor to Egypt and back to Greece, and was considered one of the most 
widely travelled Greeks of his age. Only gods and Titans could travel beyond the en- 
chanted Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar). Jason’s voyage to Media (Persia) was recorded as a 
wonderful adventure. Ulysses lost his way in the Mediterranean and Homer wrote an 
epic about it. 

Such a world was a fertile breeding place for myths. The most fantastic tales about 
distant countries and peoples were enthusiastically believed by the ancients. If some 
sailor or shipwrecked mariner returned to his homeland after a year’s adventure in foreign 
lands and gave his countrymen exaggerated accounts of the peoples he saw, his audience 
were eager to exaggerate them still more and circulate weird tales about Cyclops with one 
eye and “men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders”. Even in our own days 
common folk are not above believing strange stories about foreigners. The idea of myth- 
making is real enough in war time when the lowest passions of man rise uppermost and 
enemies are depicted in the darkest colour. Readers are familiar with cartoons depicting 
enemy leaders as beasts, demons and incarnations of the devil. They are often spoken of 
as dragons or gorillas ravishing the fair maid ‘Liberty’. It is also interesting to note that 
some pious men have identified Soviet Russia with the mythical beast in the Revelation. 

Enlightenment, all told, has not kept pace with scientific progress, and modem 
man retains most of the traits and tendencies of his primitive ancestor. 

Where thought and reasoning are undeveloped, impulse is unrestrained and imagina- 
tion wild. To the primitive man the whole nature was charged with weird possibilities; 
the air was filled with spirits, and demons lurked in caves and the hollow trunks of old trees. 
He fell down in terror before every grotesque shape. Thunder and lightning inspired awe 
and dread in him. Floods, droughts, earthquakes and other calamities were thought to be 
caused by malicious spirits who had either to be destroyed by benevolent deities or appeased 
by the sacrifice of victims. On the other hand, the spring breeze, flower-laden trees, seasonal 
rains, good harvests and other pleasant phenomena filled man with a sense ot gratitude 
towards the benevolent spirits who were supposed to cause them. 

As humanity grew, the collection of stories about spirits, good and bad, were enriched 
by legends of heroes who fought for the tribe and vanquished their enemies, and of sages 
who, by invention or legislation, advanced the cause of thetribc. These legends increased in 
jiumber and variety and, in course of time, passed into mythology. Many of the gods and 
goddesses worshipped by man at present were once human beings who trod this humble earth. 

Nor are all myths the result of ignorance, malice or hero-worship. Poetry too has 
enriched mythology. The ancients lived in intimate contact with nature and their life 
was not so artificial as ours. In those days, there were no cities, machines and mechanized 
means of transport. The habitations of ordinary people were not proof against wind and 
rain. They were literally sons of the soil. They had no sound system of irrigation, and 
agriculture was dependent upon the precarious rainfall. Their villages had no lights in 
the night, and the wolf, hyena, tiger and other beasts of the night and predatory tribes 
appeared under cover of darkness to devour and to loot Before the invention of agriculture 
the plight of man was still worse and he wandered from place to place in search of pastures 
and game. Nor was that the beginning of the adventure of man upon this earth. There 
was a time when he lived in caves without knowing how to lay a fire or forge a weapon. 

So, the ancients were Nature's children and their pliant minds reacted to the beauty 
of Nature in a degree not possible lor us to experience. “At the very dawn of history 



INTRODUCTION 


3 


when man beheld the glorious orb of the day shedding an effulgent stream of light on all 
that exist, the night studded with myriads of beautiful stars, the crystal rills rumbling in 
the limitless forests, in the midst of wild scenery, when man beheld a storm spreading 
gloom all around, how a gentle breeze made all nature bloom, he very naturally became 
contemplative. Amazed and awe-struck at the sight of these phenomena of the natural 
world, he put to himself the question — what do these things reveal to me ? What is the 
inworking light of all these ? To the so-called uncivilized man living in that far-off age of 
faith, this panorama presented by the universe revealed the will of some unknown powers, 
unknown to him yet guiding him.*' 

The Science op Mythology 

Myths, then, have a meaning. Just as strata of earth give an indication to the 
life of the earth and even of the progress of life through prehistoric times, myths are thought- 
fossils which teach us in allegories and symbols the story of cultures and civilisations that 
preceded ours, and the attempts of primitive man to solve various human problems. As 
reason and science advance, myths lose much of their religious and dogmatic character, 
hut are not discarded entirely as futile. In fact they still find a prominent place in the 
emotional life of the community, in art, poetry and folklore The cathedrals and pataces of 
Europe, and the murals, frescoes, paintings and sculptures in them are still a joy to the 
onlooker, ,be he Christian, pagan or atheist. The artists of Christendom have liberally 
borrowed from Greek and Egyptian mythology, and Madonna, the Queen of Heaven, the 
main inspiration of renaissance art, is traced to the Egyptian Isis. Of the extent mythology 
has influenced art in India, every cave and temple ana the idols and frescoes within, bear 
eloquent testimony. 

Apart from its relation to art, mythology has a scientific aspect. By study of com- 
parative mythology ethnologists have been able to elucidate many obscure points of racial 
migrations and fusions. The similarity between certain myths of different peoples inhabit ing 
distant regions is striking. It is true that human nature is fundamentally the same, and 
similarity in expression of emotions and reaction to phenomena can be coincidental. But 
there are certain analogies which, by their very nature, point to something more than a 
coincidence. In the Knandogya Upamshad, for instance, there is the myth of the mundane 
egg : "The egg broke open. The two halves were one of silver, the other of gold. The 
silver one became this earth, the golden one the sky ; the thick membrane (of the yolk) 
the mist with the clouds, the small veins, the rivers, the fluid, the sea ; and w hat was bom 
from it, the sun." Professor Max Muller observes that there is a Finnish myth of the 
creation exactly similar to this one, and maintains that such striking identity can scarcely 
be accidental. 

Mvthologists trace many Hindu, Greek and Scandinavian myths to a common 
origin. Philologists even establish etymological identity of many names of gods and 
goddesses. They surmise, with good reason, that the Hindus. Germans and Greeks had 
a common homeland whence their forefathers migrated in prehistoric times to different 
parts of the world, and that their common language and religion underwent many modi- 
fications by contact with new and alien environments. But even in these modified forms, 
there are striking analogies which establish a fundamental unity. 

In function, the following Hindu and Greek (or Roman) deities are more or less 
identical: 

Indra . . Jupiter. Balarama . . Bacchus. 

Vanina . . Neptunus. Kartikeva . . Mars. 



4 


INTRODUCTION 


Surya 

Sol. 

Durga 

.. Juno. 

Chandra 

Lunus. 

Saras vat i 

. . Minerva. 

Viswakarma . . 

Vulcan. 

Ushas 

. . Aurora. 

Aswins 

Castor and Pollux. 

Sri 

. . Venus. 

Ganesha 

Janus. 

Kama 

. . Eros (Cupid). 


Deities have different names and functions, and conclusions drawn from too great 
an emphasis on etymology or function can, no doubt, be misleading. But it cannot be 
denied that there is considerable evidence in support of the hypothesis of a common home- 
land for the people now known as Aryans. While the existence of “a common Aryan 
home” is generally accepted in theory, scholars have not yet been able to locate it. At 
one time controversy over this subject seemed to shake the foundations of the learned 
world. The dissertations of the controversialists were not always in the best interests of 
science, or particularly ethnology, but often took the form of racial arrogance and violent 
personal attacks. Practically every Aryan scholar claimed the “common homeland” for 
his own country and twisted and mutilated myths and proper nouns to fit in with his pet 
theory. Scholars who happened to be Semitic, on the other hand, took a malicious pleasure 
in ridiculing the whole thing as a figment of the imagination. As a result of this controversy, 
“it became possible to make out a more or less plausible case for any part of the world to be 
considered as the common homeland of the Aryans”. When it came to this, Professoi 
Max Muller, who was once an enthusiastic protagonist of the hypothesis, declared that the 
word 'Aryan' had only a philological and not an ethnological significance. By 'Aryan', 
he said he meant merely a group of languages allied to Sanskrit, and nothing more. The 
Arya Samajists, as we know, give an ethical interpretation to the word ; according to them 
'Aryan' means 'noble' and denotes no particular race. Thus, the ‘common Aryan home 
was dissolved into air, fire and water.' 

Be that as it may, the idea of a pure Aryan race still holds sway among many nations, 
particularly among Germans. Aryan myths indeed die hard. 

Another analogy that interests students of comparative mythology is that of the 
Egyptian to the Indian mythological system. Not only many myths, but even manners 
and usages are found common to ancient Egyptians and Indians. Like Indians, the Egyp- 
tians had a sort of caste-system. Unlike the Hindu four, Egyptians had seven castes. 
Although rules of caste were not enforced as rigidly as in India, caste was the basis of the 
Egyptian social system. Egyptians worshipped the bull Apis, and Nandi, Shiva's bull, 
holds a unique position in Hindu animal mythology. Osiris is identified with the Hindu 
Is war a. “There is a striking resemblance between the legendary wars of the three principal 
gods in Egypt and India. As Osiris gave battle to Typhon, who was defeated at length, 
and even killed by Horus, so Brahma fought with Vishnu and gained an advantage over 
him, but was overpowered by Mahadeva, who cut off one of his five heads”. In Egyptian 
cosmogony the sun-god Ra, we are told, shed tears of creative rays from which all beings 
sprang into existence ; and in India we have the counterpart of the myth in Prajapati's 
creative tears from which all creatures are said to have come into being. The Egyptian 
Homs, like Brahma of the Hindu Triad, was bom of a lotus. In the Chaos-Egg myth, 
Ra issues, like Brahma, from a golden egg. 

There are numerous other points of contact between the two mythological systems. 
While parallels in mythological conceptions among races considered Aryan can be ex- 
plained by the hypothetical ‘common homeland’, Indians and Egyptians are ethnologi- 
cally so different that we can only attribute this affinity to cultural contact through some 
unidentified medium. Probably both Egypt and India met in Babylon ; or else, the priests 



INTRODUCTION 


5 


of one country went to the other to be enlightened. Any way, wc cannot scoff, as Max 
Muller does, at the conclusion of a scholar who expressed that ‘Egyptian priests had come 
from the Nile to the Ganga and Yamuna to visit the Brahmins of India, as the Greeks 
visited them at a later time, rather to acquire than to impart knowledge.' 

Although each religion claims for itself exclusive divine origin, classical literature 
and the sacred books of different nations reveal to us strange and striking affinities in 
thoughts, customs and cults. The ruins of Babylon enriched many an alien pantheon. 
Many Greeks went to Egypt to learn sciences sacred and profane. Alexander’s conquest 
opened up cultural contact between Greece and India. Before Alexander, the Persian 
king Darius had conquered Greece, and Cambyses Egypt. The Hebrews had learnt many 
things from Egypt and Babylon, though loth to acknowledge the source. Many of the 
present Christian mysteries and cults can be traced to the Manichces, a sect that originated 
in Persia and became popular in Asia Minor and Mediterranean Europe. In ancient days 
religious fanaticism was not so blind as in medieval times, and all nations borrowed ideas 
and gods more freely than in later times. Hence the fluidity of myths and legends. 

Hindu Mythology 

Hindu mythology is more than mythology. It is a living religion. Throughout 
India can be seen idols of gods and goddesses worshipped at present as was done hundreds 
of years ago. Most of them arc true to type and could have easily stepped out of one of 
the Puranas. 

Hinduism is essentially a religion of variety. While some of the thinkers reached 
the highest peak philosophy has ever dared to climb, the lower classes practised idolatry, 
animism and the perversions peculiar to some of the objectionable cults. The Bacchanahan 
orgies of Greece and Rome arc things of the past. But in Indian villages during certain 
festivals, crowds with phallic emblems can be seen parading the streets, singing obscene 
songs. Kali may not, at present, claim human victims but is content with the meat and 
blood of goats and fowl ; her form, however, is not changed. In temples dedicated to her. 
she is still seen in her characteristic dancing pose, wearing a garland of human skulls, her 
mouth dripping blood, ready to devour the worlds if her lust for blood is not sated. Gancsha, 
the elephant-god, and Hanuman, the ape-god are also widely worshipped in India. 

The 'Revealed Wisdom’ of the Hindus is called Srutis and consists of the four Vedas* 
The rest of Hindu sacred literature is known as Smritis or tradition. The eighteen 
and the two epics ( Mahabharata and Ramayaim) form the bulk of the Smritis From the 
point of view of the mythologist, the Smritis are more important than the Srutis. In the 
former, Vedic myths have been elaborated and new myths added. 

The study of the Vedas was the exclusive privilege of the Brahmins. For the com- 
mon folk, the Smritis were considered good enough. They learnt stanzas of them by heart 
or listened to recitations by priests. Even now Katha (story-telling) is a regular institution 
and Brahmins, learned in sacred lore, can be scon reading passages from the Puranas or epics 
to enraptured audiences and explaining to them the meaning of invths and legends. While 
the lower classes arc generally ignorant of the teachings of the Vedas and the philosophic 



6 


INTRODUCTION 


schools, practically every Hindu is conversant with the tales of Kama and Sita, of the doings 
of Hanuman, of the adventures of the Mahabharata heroes and of the various activities 
of Krishna. In spite of the efforts of the Arya Samajists, the Hindu revivalists, to bring 
the Vedas to the masses, the religion of the vast majority of Hindus still remains Puranic, 
that is, mythological. 

The myths in the Vedas are comparatively simple. The deities are magnified humans 
who cause rainfall, thunder, lightning and storms. Some of the hymns of the Rig Veda 
arc poetically sublime and express the awakened soul's wonder on beholding the rosy 
dawn, the glorious sun rising above the hills, and the majesty and splendour of the heavens. 
The Vedic deities are resplendent, warlike beings who ride fleet horses, fight and vanquish 
the foes of their devotees or, exhilarated by the juice of the Soma, engage themselves in 
creative sport. Compared with the fantastic deities of the Pttranas, they are almost human. 

The reason for this simplicity of the Vedic myths is that, in the early Vedic times, 
Indo-Aryans were a semi-pastoral people who had just learnt the art of agriculture and 
were constantly on the move for new pastures. They had not yet settled down permanently, 
"and the wants and occupations of a vagrant life prevented them from falling into a great 
many superstitions which are the offspring of idleness. They were surrounded by hostile 
tribes and cattle-lifters against whom they had to put up a continuous fight. They had no 
use for lean and hungry philosophers who could wield neither sword nor club. They prayed 
for sturdy sons to ride fleet horses and confound the marauding Dasyus. Their gods too 
were of the same mettle. Rig Vedic Aryans did not delight in abstract principles thinner 
than air, but offered libations of Soma to Indra, the terrible wielder ot the thunderbolt, 
who fought and scattered the enemies of Aryans.” 

In course of time, however, they subdued the neighbouring tribes, agriculture was 
developed, and settlements became more or less permanent ; and those with a contem- 
plative turn of mind found enough security and leisure to give rein to their fancies. King- 
doms were founded, schools of philosophy developed and people whom the lure of Maya 
troubled abandoned the pleasures and comforts of the world, and retired into forests to 
ponder over the mystery of life and death, other worlds and their inhabitants. Most 
of the Pur anas are the works of these forest hermits. They saw visions, experienced the 
horrors of nightmares, and had moments of ecstasy and despair ; and they confided their 
experiences to their disciples who carefully memorized and passed them down to posterity. 
Each Parana, though attributed to a single author, is in reality a collection of tales told 
by different Rishis at different times, and has a range of many centuries. The manner 
of weaving tales into tales, familiar to those who have read the Arabian Nights, made 
interpolation easy to practise. 

Coherency is not one of the strong points of Hindu mythology. Most of the Vedic 
deities underwent a complete transformation in the Puranas and epics. Indra, the most 
important deity of the Vedic pantheon, degenerates, in the epics, into a second rate celestial 
profligate. In one myth, sun is male, in another female. Sun and moon are in one place 
mentioned as rivals, elsewhere as husband and wife. The dog is extolled as a deity in 
one place and, in another, mentioned as a vile creature. Sectarian quarrels have also 
corrupted the whole mythological system, each sect trying to establish the precedence 
and omnipotence of their own particular deity. Thus, while the Vaishnavas claim the 
descent of Ganga from the foot of Vishnu, the Shaivas attribute her origin to the head of 
Shiva. Shakti, the widely worshipped goddess of India, is variously described as the 
consort of Shiva or Vishnu, or identified with Maya, the energy of the Supreme Being, 
who, in union with her, produced all beings. And pantheism justifies everything. 



INTRODUCTION 


Ever since the conquest of India by Aryans, there have been many irruptions of 
alien races into India. Religion, in those days, was not so well-organised and exclusive 
as it became in later times, and Indo-Aryans no less by necessity than by the synthetic 
character of their religion, absorbed many cultures alien to them, and these substantially 
enriched Hindu mythology. Every race that invaded and settled down in India found 
a place in the Hindu social system, and their gods, in the pantheon. The Nagas (snake- 
worshippers), the Gujaras, from whom Gujarat takes its name, Scythians, Parthians, Huns 
and several other peoples were conquerors of India whom Indo-Aryans conquered culturally. 

Such cultural conquests are common enough in history. The Romans who con- 
quered Greece were culturally conquered by the Greeks. The Mongols who subjugated 
Muslim countries were conquered by Islam. Islam itself stood in danger of being con- 
quered by Hinduism. Akbar, the Hindus say, seriously thought ot turning Hindu, but 
gave up the attempt on being ridiculed by Birbal, the court wit.* 

Be that as it may, the uncompromising attitude of Islam towards idolatry and its 
exclusive dogmatism prevented Islam from being absorbed by Hinduism, Hindu thought 
has, however, influenced Islam appreciably and some of its later developments (Sufism in 
particular) can be traced to this influence. If Hinduism has been able to influence so 
rigid a religion as Islam, its effect on the culture of earlier invaders of easy religious doctrines 
can very well be imagined. 

Apart from conquerors, those whom the Indo-Aryans conquered also found a place 
in the Hindu fold, Dravidian and aboriginal influences are clearly traceable in the epics 
and the Puranas. Conquerors and the conquered, it is clear, cannot Jive together for long 
without being mutually affected. 

Thus Hindu mythology developed out of a fusion of various cultures, and this is 
mainly responsible for the existence of many self-contradictory myths in it and for reducing 
it, as one writer puts it, to ‘a chaos of myths.' But its very vastness makes Hindu mythology 
a fascinating subject for study. 

As regards the mythology of the Buddhists and Jains, it draws its inspiration mainly 
from Hinduism. In its travels abroad. Buddhism, of necessity borrowed many myths 
from alien lands, but I have made no efforts to include them in this book, as such an attempt 
will be outside its scope. 

In conclusion, I may observe that in this book my main attempt has been confined 
to giving the reader a faithful representation of the mythological systems of the Hindus, 
Buddhists and Jains. Hence, while efforts have, of course, been made to elucidate obscure 
points, I have, as far as possible, refrained from making comments, complimentary or 
condemnatory. 



PART I 

HINDUISM 



PLATE I 








CHAPTER I 


COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC MYTHS 

E VER since man became capable of thought, the problem of the origin of the universe 
has been constantly troubling the thinking mind. Science and religion approach 
the subject from two different angles. The nebular and tidal hypotheses, the 
latest developments in cosmogonic science, instead of solving the problem, rather tend 
to widen the field of thought which is already vast enough. Scientists have also become 
doubtful of the validity of many of their nineteenth century conclusions. Sir James Jeans, 
for instance, observes (in his book The Mysterious Universe) that the religious conception 
of creation is not scientifically untenable. On the contrary, he says, it looks as though 
the universe was, like the spring of a watch, wound up by a master-hand, and is fast running 
itself out. Sir James admits that, in the light of modern scientific evidence on the 
subject, the conception of the universe as an automatic mechanism (a theory beloved of the 
nineteenth century physicists) has broken down, giving place to Berkley’s conception of 
it as thought. Thus the theologian and the scientist are now nearer to each other than 
ever before. 

Readers are probably acquainted with the theory of creation enunciated by the Semitic 
group of religions. They say that Jehovah reduced primordial chaos to order, and brought 
the world into existence out of nothing. He created the earth and the living beings 
on it in six days, and appointed man lord of all creatures. On the seventh, lie took 
rest. Although some modem Christians, anxious to reconcile the teachings of 
Genesis with Darwinism, interprets the six days to mean six ages which evolved 
man out of lower organisms through a process of natural selection, the orthodox 
accept the biblical account literally and pronounce all other theories of creation as heretical 
or irreligious. 

In the sacred literature of the Hindus there are various accounts of how the universe 
originated. While most of them differ substantially from one another, because of the 
comprehensive synthesis of all Hindu conceptions they are all accepted as orthodox and no 
two are mutually exclusive. 

Hindu Cosmogony 

The earliest Hindu account of the origin of the universe is given in the Rig Veda. 
In some hymns it is related that Indra ‘'measured out” the heavens and earth, while in 
others Vanina is said to have done it. In a third account Agni, Maruts and Indra arc 
mentioned as the three creators of the universe. In the Purasha Sukta hjrnm, again, it is 
said the gods performed a sacrifice with a giant and as a result the giant’s body became 
the sky, his navel the air and his feet, the earth. “From his mind sprang the moon, from 
his eye the sun, from his mouth Indra and Agni, from his breath wind. The four castes 
also rose from him. His mouth became the Brahmana, his arms the Rajanya, his thighs 
the Vaisya and his feet theSudra." 

It was probably from this hymn that the later myth about the emanation of the four 
castes from Brahma, the first of the Hindu Triad, developed. 

While most of the cosmogonic myths of the world attribute the work of creation 
to the Primal Male Deity who moulded creatures out of chaos or primordial matter, thus 
establishing a gulf between the creator and the created, one myth in the Upanishads des- 



12 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


cribes man as literally the child of the Deity born of his consort. According to 
this account the Universal Soul took the shape of man. Beholding nothing but 
himself, “ he said first This I am. Hence the name of 1 was produced. Therefore even 
now a man, when called, says first ‘It is I,’ and tells afterwards any other name that belongs 
to him. And because he, as the first of all of them consumed by fire all the sins, therefore 
he is called Purusha. 

" He was afraid ; therefore man, when alone, is afraid. He then looked around 
and said : ' since nothing but myself exists, of whom should I be afraid ? ’ Hence his 
fear departed ; for whom should he fear, since fear arises from another ? 

" He did not feel delight. Therefore nobody when alone feels delight. He was 
desirous of a second. He was in the same state as husband and wife. He divided his self 
two-fold. Hence were husband and wife produced. Therefore was this only a half of 
himself as a split pea is of the whole. This void is thus completed by woman. He 
approached her. Hence were men bom." 

By far the most sublime Hindu conception of creation is found in one of the later 
hymns of the Rig Veda. The hymn has been rendered into English by Dr. Muir : 

"Then there was neither Aught nor Nought, nor air nor sky beyond. 

What covered all ? Where rested all ? In watery gulf profound ? 

Nor death was then, nor deathlcssness, nor change of night and day. 

That One breathed calmly, self-sustained ; nought else beyond it lay. 

Gloom hid in gloom existed fust — one sea, eluding view. 

That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew. 

Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind. 

Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find. 

The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss.— 

Was it beneath ? or high aloft ? What bard can answer this P 

There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove. — 

A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above. 

Who knows, whoever told, from whence this vast creation rose ? 

No gods had then been born, — who then can e’er the truth disclose ? 

Whence sprang this world, and whether framed by hand divine or no. — 

It’s lord in heaven alone can tell, if even he can show.” 

Thus the poet begins as a theist and ends almost as an agnostic. 

The conception of the origin of the universe given in some of the Puranas is com- 
paratively primitive. In the Bhagbata there are many cosmogonic myths which are highly 
hair-splitting but not equally enlightening. In all these accounts, Narayana is said to be 
the Prime Lord who created everything by his will to create. In one place it is said, speech 
originated from his mouth, the Vedas from the humours of his body, nectar from his tongue, 
the firmament from his nose, the heaven and sun from the pupils of his eyes, places of 
pilgrimage from bis cars, clouds and rain from his hair, flashes of lightning from his beard, 
rocks from his nails, mountains from his bones, etc., etc. 

Narayana, the Primal Lord, is described as lying on a banyan leaf floating on primeval 
waters sucking his toe, the symbol of eternity. The myth appears self-contradictory as it 
attributes all creation to Narayana and yet leaves one in doubt as to his precedence over 
Nara, the primeval waters. . . 



COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC MYTHS 


13 


In the Bkagbaia we are also given a description of the Mundane Egg. ‘Prakriti’ 
(nature) is said to be the mainstay of the three fundamental qualities, Satwa, Rajas and 
Tamas which were originally in a passive state ; but on their agitation by the “resistless 
destiny of creatures, the Prime Person presiding over Prakriti, and Kala (Time),” the 
principle of Mahatatwa, came into being. From this by a process too lengthy to be given 
in detail here, Tanmatras were produced. These, when combined with the Divine Power, 
generated the Golden Egg. “The Lord of the Universe reposed for over a thousand years 
on that egg devoid of any living creatures and lying on the surface of the ocean. While 
the Lord was so lying in self-communion, there issued from his navel a lotus with the shining 
brilliance of one thousand suns together. So large was the lotus that it could be the du elling 
place of all the creatures. From this lotus sprang up Bralura, the self- created. Thereupon, 
being endowed with the powers of the Reverend One lying on the waters, Brahma created 
all beings and assigned to each of them name and form.” 

The work of creation was not, however, without difficulties. It seems Brahma 
himself was open to error and made mistakes. In his first attempt at creation he tumbled 
upon ignorance which he cast away ; and this became Night. Out of Night sprang forth 
the Beings of Darkness. Brahma having created nothing else at the time, the hungry 
beings of the void rushed towards Brahma himself to devour him. Thus assailed, Brahma 
cried out to his hungry sons : “Eat me not, I am your father.” But some of the hungry 
ones cried : “Eat him even if he be our father.” These became Yakshas ; the others 
who cried : “Do not let him be saved," became Rakshasas. 

Becoming wise, Brahma next created beings in whom the Satw a quality predominated 
and they became celestials. From his hip he created Asuras, from his feet the earth, from 
his smile fairies, etc., etc. 

In another place in the Bhagbala we are told that Brahma, after certain initial failures, 
created four Munis (sages) namely, Sanaka, Sananda, Santana and Sanatkumara. But 
these sages were averse to the work of creation and betook themselves to austerities and the 
worship of Vasudeva, thus defeating the very purpose for which they were created. This 
filled Brahma with anger, and out of his wrath sprang forth the mighty Rudra who carried 
on the work of creation. 

In his Code, Manu gives a different account of creation. According to this authority, 
“He (the self-existent) having felt desire, and willing to create various living beings from 
his own body, first created the waters and threw into them a seed. That seed became a 
golden egg of lustre equal to the sun ; in it he himself was bom as Brahma, the parent of all 
the world. The waters are called Nara because they are sprung from Nara ; and as they 
were his first sphere of motion he is therefore called Narayana. Produced from the im- 
perceptible, eternal, existent and non-existent cause that male (puruslia) is celebrated in the 
world as Brahma. After dwelling for a year in the egg, the glorious being by his own con- 
templation split in twain . . . Having divided his own body into two parts the lord (Brahma) 
became with the half a male and with the other half a female ; and in her he created Viraj. 
Know thou that I (Manu) whom that male Viraj himself created am the creator of all this 
world." 

Thus in this account, which is an amalgamation of many myths, Manu claims the 
credit of creation of the world to himself and incidentally establishes the priority of Narayana 
to Nara, an obscure point in man}' other myths. 

I must also mention another myth in which creation is said to have sprung up from 
the tears of Prajapati. Prajapati coming into existence from non-existence wept exclaiming. 



14 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


"for what purpose have I been born if (I have been bom) from this which forms no support ? 
The tears which fell into the water became the earth. That which he wiped away became 
the air. That which he wiped away upwards became the sky." 

The myth illustrates the pessimistic view of life characteristic of Buddhism and 
certain schools of Hinduism. 

All that is best in Hindu cosmogonic conceptions is summarized by Sir William 
Jones in his hymn of N arayana. Sir William has beautifully caught the spirit of the ancient 
poets of India and the sublimity and representative character of the hymn will, I hope, 
excuse my quoting it at length : 


"Spirit of Spirits, who though every part 
Of space expanded, and of endless time, 
Beyond the stretch of lab'ring thought sub- 
lime 

Bad’st uproar into beauteous order start, 
Before heaven was thou art : 

Ere spheres beneath us roll'd, or spheres 
above. 

Ere earth in firmamental ether hung, 

Thou sat’st above ; till, through thy mystic 
love, 

Things unexisting to existence sprung, 

And graceful descant sung. 

What first impelled thee to exert thy might ? 
Goodness unlimited. What glorious light 
Thy power directed ? Wisdom without 
bound. 

What proved it first ? oh 1 guide my 
fancy right ; 

Oh ! raise from cumbrous ground 
My soul in rapture drowned, 

That fearless it may soar on wings of fire : 
For Thou, who only know’st, Thou only 
can’st inspire. 

Wrapt in eternal solitary shade 

Th’ impenetrable gloom of light intense, 

Impervious, inaccessible, immense, 

Ere spirits were infused or forms displayed, 
Brahm his own mind surveyed, 

As mortal eyes (thus finite we compare 
With infinite) in smoothest mirrors gaze ; 
Swift, at his look, a shape supremely fair 
Leap'd into being with a boundless blaze. 
That fifty suns might daze. 

Primeval Maya was the Goddess named. 
Who to her sire, with love divine inflame, 

A casket gave with rich ideas filled, 

From which this gorgeous universe he 
framed ; 


For, when the Almighty will'd 
Unnumbered worlds to build 
From Unity, diversified he sprang, 

While ga.y creation laughed and procreant 
Nature rang. 

First an all-potent, all-pervading sound 
Bade flow the waters, — and the waters 
flow’d 

Exulting in their measureless abode, 
Diffusive, multitudinous, profound. 

Above, beneath, around ; 

Then o'er the vast expanse primordial wind 
Breathed gently, till a lucid bubble rose, 
Which grew in perfect shape, an egg refined: 
Created substance no such lustre shows, 
Earth no such beauty knows. 

Above the warring waves it danc’d elate, 

Till from its bursting shell with lovely state 
A form cerulean flutter’d o’er the deep, 
Brightest of beings, greatest of the great : 
Who, not as mortals steep, 

Their eyes in dewy sleep, 

But heavenly pensive on the lotus lay. 

That blossom'd at his touch and shed a 
golden ray. 

Hail, primal blossom ! hail empyreal gem. 
Kamal or Padma, or whate’er high name 
Delight thee, say, what four formed Godhead 
came. 

With graceful stole and beamy diadem. 
Forth from thy verdant stem ? 

Full gifted Brahma I Rapt in solemn thought 
He stood, and round his eyes fire-darting 
threw ; 

But whilst his view-less origin he sought 
One plane he saw of living waters blue, 

Their spring nor saw nor knew. 

Then in his parent stalk again retired. 

With restless pain for ages he inquired, 



COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC .MYTHS 


15 


What were his powers, by whom and why 
conferr’d : 

With doubts perplex'd with keen impatience 
fired 

He rose, and rising heard 
Th' unknown, all-knowing word 
“Brahma 1 no more in vain research persist : 
My veil thou canst not move : — go, bid all 
worlds exist." 

Hail ! sell-existent, in celestial speech 
Narayan, from thy wat'ry cradle named ; 

Or Venaroala may I sing unblamed, 

With flow'ry braids, that to thy sandals 
reach, 

Whose beauties who can teach ? 

Or high Pitamber clad in yellow robes 
Than sunbeams brighter, in meridian glow, 
That weave their heav'n-spun light o'er 
circling globes ? 

Unwearied, lotus-ey'd,’ with dreadful bow 
Dire Evil's constant foe ! 

Great Padma Natha, o’er thy cherish'd 
world, 

The pointed chakra by thy fingers whirl’d 
Fierce Kylabh shall destroy and Methu grim 
To black despair and deep destruction 
hurl’d. 

Such views my senses dim, 

My eyes in darkness swim, 

What eye can bear thy blaze, what utt'rance 

Thy deeds with silver trump or many- 
wreathed shell. 

Omniscient spirit, whose all-ruling pow'r 
Bids from each sense bright emanations 
beam, 

Glows in the rainbow, sparkles in the stream. 
Smiles in the bud and glistens in the 
flow’r 

That crowns each vernal bow’r ; 


Sighs in the gale and warbles in the throat 
Of every bird that hails the bloomy spring, 
Or tells his love in many a liquid note. 
While envious artists touch the rival string, 
Till rocks and forests ring ; 

Breathes in rich fragrance from the sandal 
grove. 

Or where the precious musk-deer playful 
rove, 

In dulcet juice clust’ring fruit distils 
And burns salubrious in the tasteful clove ; 
Soft banks and verd’rous hills 
Thy present influence fills ; 

In air, floods, in caverns, woods and plains 
Thy will inspirits all, thy sovereign Maya 
reigns. 

Blue crystal vault and elemental fires, 

That in the ethereal fluid blaze and breathe , 
Thou tossing main, whose snaky branches 
wreathe 

This pensive orb with intertwisted gyres ; 
Mountains, whose radiant spires 
Presumptuous rear their summits to the 
skies, 

And blend their emerald hue, with saphire 
light ; 

Smooth meads and lawn, that glow’ with 
varying dyes — 

Of dew-bespangled leaves and blossoms 
bright 

Hence ! vanish from my sight. 

Delusive pictures I unsubstantial shows 1 
My soul absorb'd one only Being knows, 

Of all perceptions One abundant source, 
Whence ev’ry object every moment flows ; 
Suns hence derive their force. 

Hence planets learn their course : 

But sims and fading worlds I view’ no 
mere ; 

God only I perceive ; God only I adore." 


Duration and End of the Universe 

The cosmic unit of time, according to Hindu mythical astronomy, is the Kalpa, 
or a day of Brahma the creator. Brahma creates in the morning, and at night the three 
divisions of worlds (Heavens, middle and nether regions) are reduced to chaos, every being 
that has not obtained liberation retaining its essence which takes form according to its 
Karma, when Brahma wakes up in the morning. Thus the eventful days and nights pass 
on, till Brahma reaches the hundredth year of his life when “not only the three worlds 
but all planes and all beings, Brahma himself, Devas, Rishis, Asuras, men, creatures and 



iG EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

matter" are all resolved into Mahapralaya (the great cataclysm). After hundred years 
of chaos another Brahma is bom. 

The Kalpa or day of Brahma is equivalent to 4,320,000,000 earth-years and is divided 
into 1,000 Mahayugas (great ages) of equal length each consisting of four Yugas or ages, 
namely, Krita, Threta, Dwapara and Kali. 

In the Kritayuga (also called Satyuga) Dharma is said to be four-legged, that is, 
complete in its four aspects ; and the four-fold virtues of truthfulness, kindness, devotion 
and charity are constantly practised. The men of this age are described as "contented, 
kind, amiable, mild and possessed of self-control and forgiveness. They also observe the 
principle of equality and' enjoy the bliss of a trained soul.” In the Mahabharata Hanuman 
gives a graphic account of Kritayuga. "In that age," says Hanuman, "there were neither 
Gods, Danavas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Rakshasas nor Pannagas ; no buying and selling 
went on, no efforts were made by men ; the fruit (of the earth) was obtained by their mere 
wishes. No disease or decline of the organs of sense arose through the influence of age ; 
there was no malice, weeping, pride or deceit, no contention, no hatred, cruelty, fear, afflic- 
tion, jealousy or envy. At that period the castes, alike in their functions, fulfilled their 
duties, were incessantly devoted to one Deity and used one Mantra, one rule and one rite. 
They had but one Veda." 

The Kritayuga lasts for 1,728,000 years and the Deity during this period is said to 
be white. 

In the Thretayuga, Dharma is three-legged, that is, virtue falls short by one-fourth. 
People become somewhat malicious and quarrelsome. Men of licentious temperament 
appear, but Brahmins conversant with the teachings of the Vedas far exceed their number. 
Although people become rather shrewd and act from motives, generally speaking, they are 
devoted to their duties and are punctual in the performance of religious ceremonies. The 
length of the Thretayuga is 1,296,000 years, and in this age the Deity becomes red. 

During the Dwaparayuga, Dharma becomes two-legged and is precariously sup- 
ported. Falsehood, malice, discontent and dissensions greatly prevail Devotion, kindness 
and forgiveness diminish by half. The Deity becomes yellow and the Veda four-fold. 
Some Brahmins study all the four Vedas, some three, others two and some none at all. 
The majority of Brahmins are, however, well-versed in the scriptures, and many noble 
Kshatriyas and Vaisvas follow their Dharma scrupulously. The Dwaparayuga lasts for 
864,000 years. 

The last is Kaliyuga, the present age of degeneration. Dharma in this age is one- 
legged and lies helplessly prostrate. ‘Only onc-fourth of the whole amount of virtue re- 
mains as a residue ; and even this small quantity disappears according as the causes of 
vices rapidly increase.' 

All the poets wax eloquent in describing the misery of the Kaliyuga. "In this age," 
says the author of Bhagbala, "most of the people arc Sudras or slaves who are always subject 
to* temptation ; they are wicked, unkind, quarrelsome, unlucky and beggar-like. Decep- 
tion, idleness sloth, malice, dullness, distress, fcaT and poverty are foremost in men and 
darkness prevails upon them. They highly prize what is low and degraded. They are 
ever attended by misfortunes. They eat voraciously." 

Men are led by their wives. Women become shameless, overbold and lascivious. 
They bear too many children. The}’ eat much, talk much and their speech is disagreeable. 
Cities are filled with thieves and vicious men. Low and deceitful merchants conduct mar- 




MONKEYS BUILDING KAMA'S BRIDGE 
(From Moor’s Hindu Pantheon) 



PLATE VH 



14 HAN OMAN* ANNOUNCING SITA'S ACQUITTAL BV THE FIRE ORDEAL 

(From Moor's Hindu Pantheon) 



(From Moot’s Hindu Pantheon) 





COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC MYTHS 


*7 


keting. Kings become oppressive and draw out blood from their subjects. Householders 
neglect their duties and beg in the streets, and Brahmins degenerate to the level of Sudras. 
Droughts and floods devastate crops, and wars and famines depopulate the earth. In 
short, the condition of the world becomes so bad that wise men pray for the arrival of 
Kalki the destroyer. 

The length of the Kaliyuga is 432,000 years and in this age the Deity becomes black. 

It is interesting to note that we are said to be living in the sixth millennium of the 
Kaliyuga of the present Mahayuga. The current Kalpa is computed to be the first day 
of the fifty-first year of the life of our Brahma. 

Thus the Hindu view of life is one of progressive degeneration. In tliis conception 
of a decaying universe, the mystics of all religious persuasions are strangely unanimous. 
Adherents of the Semitic group of religions believe in Eden, the earthly Paradise whence 
Adam, the ancestor of man, was expelled for his misconduct and left to toil and die. There 
is an Egyptian myth which purports to say that man was immortal and happy m a by-gone 
age, but on hatching a conspiracy to usurp the throne of the Primal Father was caught 
red-handed and condemned to death. 

According to Hesiod, the Greek poet, the mythical history of his country consists 
of five ages. "In the beginning the Olympians under Kronos created the race of the Men 
of Gold. In those days men lived like gods in unalloyed happiness. They did not toil 
with their hands for earth brought forth her fruits without their aid. They did not know 
the sorrows of old age, and death to them was like passing away in a calm sleep. After 
they had gone hence their spirits were appointed to dwell above the earth, guarding and 
helping the living, 

"The gods next created the Men of Silver, but they could not be compared in virtue 
and happiness with the men of ‘the elder age of golden peace.' For many years they re- 
mained mere children and as soon as they came to the full strength and stature of manhood 
they refused to do homage to the gods and fell to slaying one another. After death they 
became the good spirits who live within the earth. 

"The Men of Bronze followed springing from ash-trees and having hearts which 
were hard and jealous, so that with them 'lust and strife began to gnaw' the world.’ All 
the works of their hands were wrought in bronze. Through their own inventions they 
fell from their high estate and from the light they passed away to the dark realm of King 
Hades unhonoured and unremembered. 

"Zeus then placed upon earth the race of the Heroes who fought at Thebes and 
Troy, and when they came to the end of life, the Olympian sent them to happy abodes at 
the very limits of the earth. 

"After the Heroes came the Men of Iron — the race of these wild days. Our lot is 
labour and vexation of spirit by day and night, nor will this cease until the race ends, which 
will be when the order of nature has been reversed and human affection turned to hatred." 

The fourth age, the age of Heroes, is considered to be an interpolation- Hesiod's 
scheme, it seems, had only four ages. 

In its conception of the progress of life, mysticism is thus the antithesis of the doctrine 
of evolution. 

The manner of destruction of the world at the end of the Kaliyuga is differently 
described in the Puranas. In one account it is related that Vishnu will appear as Kalki, 



18 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

“an armed warrior, mounted on a white horse, furnished with wings and adorned with 
jewels, waving over his head with one hand the sword of destruction and holding in the 
other a disc. The horse is represented as holding up the right fore-leg ; and when he 
stamps on the earth with that, the tortoise supporting the serpent Shesha on whose hood 
the world rests, shall fall into the deep, and so rid himself of the load ; and by that means 
all the wicked inhabitants of the world will be destroyed." 

In the Bhagbata we are told that the “age of destruction is so horrible that during 
it the clouds never fall on the earth as drops of rain for one hundred years. The people 
then find no food to eat and being terribly oppressed by hunger they are compelled to eat 
one another. Being thus overpowered by what is wrought by time, the men gradually 
lead themselves to utter destruction." 

Elsewhere the universal cataclysm is predicted in vivid details. “After a drought 
lasting for many years, seven blazing suns will appear in the firmament ; they will drink 
up all the waters. Then wind-driven fire will sweep over the earth, consuming all things ; 
penetrating to the nether world it will destroy what is there in a moment ; it will bum up 
the universe. Afterwards many coloured and brilliant clouds will collect in the sky looking 
like herds of elephants decked with wreaths of lightning. Suddenly they will burst asunder, 
and rains will fall incessantly for twelve years until the whole world with its mountains 
and forests is covered with water. The clouds will vanish. Then the self-created lord, 
the first cause of everything, will absorb the winds and go to sleep. The universe will 
become one dread expanse of water." 


It may be mentioned that a day of Brahma is also divided into fourteen Mamvantaras, 
over each of which presides a Manu or teacher who does not necessarily perish with the 
w’orld at the end of a Mahayuga. In the Mahabharala, the sage Markandeya relates how 
our Manu was saved in the last Pralaya (cataclysm). The following is the story : 

Manu, who was equal unto Brahma in glory, practised austerities for 10,000 years. 
One day while he was meditating on the Infinite, standing on one leg with uplifted hand 
by the bank of a stream, a fish rose from the water and asked for Manu's protection from 
the bigger fish that was chasing it. Manu took the fish from the stream and placed it 
in an earthen jar. The fish grew too big for the jar. Then Manu took it to a pond. The 
fish grew too big for the pond and begged to be taken to the Ganges. It was taken to the 
Ganges but it giew big for the Ganges too, and had to be taken to the ocean. In the ocean 
the fish smiled and revealed to Manu its identity as Brahma. It also predicted the ap- 
proaching end of the world by a deluge, and asked Manu to build an ark and take in it, 
“the seven Rishis and all the different seeds enumerated by Brahmins of yore and preserve 
them carefully.” Manu did as he was told, and when the deluge began, lie set sail in his 
ship and fastened the cables of his ship to the horns of the fish. 

“Along the ocean in that stately ship was borne the lord of men and through 
Its dancing, tumbling billows, and its roaring waters ; and the bark. 

Tossed to and fro by violent winds, reeled on the surface of the deep, 

Staggering and trembling like a drunken woman. Land was seen no more. 

Nor far horizon, nor the space between ; for everywhere around 
Spread the wild waste of waters, reeking atmosphere, and boundless sky. 

Now when all the world was deluged, nought appeared above the waves 
But Manu and the seven sages, and the fish that drew the bark. 



COSMIC AND COSMOGONIC MYTHS 


19 


Unwearied, thus {or years on years, the fish propelled the ship across 

The heaped-up waters, till at length it bore the vessel to the peak 

Of Himavan.” 

Now the waters began to descend and Manu with them. In due time he reached 
the plains and took up the work of creation for the next Kritayuga. 

The story has a parallel in the Hebrew myth of the deluge and Noah's Ark. iProbably 
both have a common origin. 

Hindu Mythical Geography 

From the meagre accounts in the Vedas, it is surmised that Vedic poets conceived 
the earth as "extended, broad and boundless, in shape like a wheel.” There is no mention 
of oceans surrounding it. The most ancient cosmic conception is that "the earth and the 
sky alone constitute the universe. In this case the idea of the shape of the earth varies, 
for when it is united with the sky, it is compared to two great bowls turned toward each 
other, while, from another point of view, earth and sky are likened to the wheels at the 
ends of an axle.” 

Puranic myths, as usual, differ widely in their accounts of how the earth is supported 
and divided. In one place, the earth is said to be resting on the hood of the serpent Shesha, 
Shesha himself lying on a tortoise above primal waters. Elsewhere, four elephants are 
said to be supporting the^earth. A third account tells us that four giants carry the earth 
on their shoulders and earthquakes are caused by their changing shoulders when they 
get tired. 

Some of the Pitranas speak of seven mythical island continents of which the inner- 
most is our world. This world is called Jambudwipa (island of the Jambu) because of the 
mythical Jambu tree that is said to be growing in one of its mountains. "The fruits of the 
tree are as large as elephants ; and when they are ripe, they fall upon the mountain, and 
their juice forms the Jambu river, whose waters give health and life to those that drink of 
them.” 

In the centre of the world and supporting them is Mount Meru, 84,000 leagues in 
height. The holy land of Bharatavarsha from where alone is salvation possible, lies be- 
tween the Himalayas and the salt sea. 

"On the summit of Mem is the city of Brahma extending 14,000 leagues, renowned 
in Heaven ; around it are the cities of Indra and other regents of the spheres. About 
the city of Brahma flows the Ganges, encircling the city. 

"In the foot-hills of Mem dwell the Gandharvas, Kinnaras and Siddhas ; the Daityas, 
Asuras and Rakshasas in the valley.” 

Of all places, celestial and terrestrial, Bharatavarsha is said to be the best because it 
is a place of action whereas the others, blissful as they are, are regions of inertia.* 


Some Buddhist and Jain cosmic conceptions will be found in the respective chap ten. 



CHAPTER II 


THE HINDU PANTHEON 


S TRICTLY speaking, the Hindus are monotheists Whii» t u , ,, _ 

group of religions conceive God as male, the Hindus kS-v 'd TT ° f th , e Semitic 
the Deity as neuter. The Supreme Eefnp- S * Ca 7 y the dea hl g^ er and conceive 
sex or attributes. But the Hindus hold that the Sumeme 7 *°™ aS B { ahm "' is without 
the abstract by the intellectually or spiritually iriftJd onl 7 be conceived ™ 

require deities with forms and sentiments • and for^h,? 3 | he ?. asses ' ? or ‘heir worship, 
Supreme Being are personified into deities' Idolatries ,? spects of the 
essentially pantheistic nature of Advaita the nrllfl ■ l- permitted because of the 
sophy. rravaita, the predommating school of Hindu philo- 

by f/lf T° ^ (f ° Unded in the *h century 

Dayanand) teach the exclusive worship of a^rsonal rw™ ** the , I ^ h . centu ry by Swami 
followers of these two persuasions are comparative^ w ty P rohlblt idolatry. But the 
are Sanatanists (those who follow the ancient faith) Y * d the VaSt raajonty of Hindus 

Practically every aspect* of 'hfe^asbe?:^ 9f ore f and three, 

ancestor-worship and idle imagination All fnrJtet e P?"theon enriched by animism, 
are recognized Is orthodox P Sed they fLS acceTth P iz n / aU forms , of tho “6 , ' t 
Even the Sankhya, an atheistic school of Hindu I l2! ‘ h V “!f as , rcvealed wisdom, 
it admits the authority of the Vedas if only to interll * fi! y i S . c ? nsidered orthodox because 
andjainismare denounced 

evolved system (if ^t^a^be^alledli^vsteiTn^ ^ a . n S e s, and as it stands today is an 
positions lost their importance and werc^ephced brothers P°‘l S -, w lV > ™ ce ocrapied high 
them was totally discarded, others were S subord?nl^ sV U ° tl,e ' vorshi P ° f ° f 
or twice a year. Some gods fell with the defeat of thJ- 5° 5ltl . ons ? nd remembered once 
sectarian quarrels sealed the fate of many others ° f their devotees m ‘he battlefield and 

nature the central fact of the mythical 

utmost reverence, their the , Supra T Bein S the 

the Trinity is often irreverent and impious Brahml tr^ ’ en ‘“wards the members of 
curses of pious mortals. These god™?ve ?heif SSSemT ? HU and Shiva <l uail beforc ,hc 
sorrow. They weep over losses as humans do mT? ° f pa ^. 10 "’ weakness, elation and 
telling lies, fn one^ place a god is deputed as a ^ge InH „n-, a comer ' arc not above 
simpleton. Some gods have even committed ! a i ® a and Philosopher and, in another, as a 

attached to each tale of a god WbeSur d mcest ' But there is a raoral 

In spite of all these weaknesses of the pods th»> _ * , , . , 

power aspect of the Deity. Thev vividlv the Hl ” dus put great emphasis on the 

and to throw the magnitude of the taslt int« m-»t* OWa i^^ or S°ddess destroyed a demon, 
mighty. But the method by whi?h d $ ct the de ™ n « incredibly 

desired even according to the ethical conceptions °f hun^^humimsJ^ifrituTl^archhectlira 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


21 


and art, special care is taken to overwhelm man by a sense of the immensity of the might of 
the godhead. 

While the Greek ideal is beauty, and the Christian ideal love, the Hindu ideal of the 
Deity is Power. Even in rhythmic art (the dance of Shiva and Kali for instance} the 
idea of Power is overemphasised, the only exception being the dances of Krishna. 

In Vedic times, the deities were few and simple. The Vedic pantheon consisted 
of 33 members who could be ultimately resolved into one. The rest of the deities were 
developments of the epic and Puranic times. In the Puranas “gods meet with gods, and 
being ultimately resolvable into one, as that one is approached, the dashing seems more 
and more frequent." 

In describing the deities, the current Puranic order has been followed. All the 
Vedic deities are also mentioned in the Puranas, though given positions subordinate to 
the three great Puranic deities constituting the Triad. 

The Hindu Triad 

The Hindu Triad consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the creator, preserver 
and destroyer of the worlds respectively. The three major aspects of the Supreme Being 
are thus personified for the better understanding of the Deity, and it is emphasized that 
the Three is One. "In the obvious arrangement of the three grand powers of the Eternal 
One, creation and preservation precede destruction : this is the relative and philosophical 
rank of the Triad, but not always their theological or sectarian station. For as the Vaish- 
navas exalt Vishnu, so the Shaivas exalt Shiva to the place, and describe him with the 
power, of the Deity or Brahm ; as all things must at the end of time suffer destruction, so 
the personification of that power must be considered as ultimately paramount, although 
anterior to that inconceivable period, the preserving member of the Trinity may have 
apparent predominancy."* 

Although Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are said to be One, sectarians often try to 
establish the supremacy of Vishnu or Shiva, as the case may be, over the others. Brahma 
has few devotees at present, but from many accounts in the Vedas and the Puranas, it 
is clear that at one time he was widely worshipped and considered the foremost of the Triad. 

A myth obviously Shaivite in origin gives the following account cf the Trinity (Brah- 
ma is supposed to be relating the story to the gods and Rishis) : 

“In the Primal Night, when all beings and all worlds are resolved together in 
one equal and inseparable stillness, I beheld the great Narayana, soul of the universe, 
thousand-eyed, omniscient, Being and non-Being alike, reclining on the formless waters, 
supported by the thousand-headed serpent Infinite ; and I, deluded by his glamour touched 
the Eternal Being with my hand and asked : 'Who art thou ? Speak.' Then he of the 
lotus eyes looked upon me with drowsy glance, then rose and smiled and said : ‘Welcome 
my child, thou shining grandsire.' But I took offence thereat and said : ‘Dost thou O 
sinless god like a teacher to a pupil call me child, who am the cause of creation and destruc- 
tion, framer of the myriad worlds, the source and soul of all ? Tell me why dost thou speak 
foolish words to me ?’ Then Vishnu answered : 'Knowest thou not that I am Narayana, 
creator, preserver, and destroyer of the worlds, the Eternal Male, the undying source and 
centre of the universe ? For thou vert born from my own imperishable body.' . . 

“Now ensued an angry argument between us twain upon that formless sea. Then 

• Hindu Panihtan, Edward Moor. 



22 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

for the ending of our contention there appeared before us a glorious shining Lingam, a 
fiery pillar, like a hundred universe-consuming fires, without beginning, middle or end, 
incomparable, indescribable. The divine Vishnu bewildered by its thousand flames, 
said unto me, who was as much astonished as himself : ‘Let us forthwith seek to know 
this fire’s source. I will descend, do thou ascend with all thy power.' Then he became a 
boar, like a mountain of blue collyrium, a thousand leagues in width, with white sharp- 
pointed tusks, long-snouted, loud-grunting, short of foot, victorious, strong, incomparable 
— and plunged below. For a thousand years he sped thus downward, but found no base 
at all of the Lingam. Meanwhile I became a swan, white, fiery eyed, with wings on every 
side, swift as thought and as wind ; and I went upward for a thousand years seeking to 
find the pillar’s end, but found it not. Then I returned and met the great Vishnu, weary 
and astonished on his upward way. 

“Then Shiva stood before us, and we whom his magic had guiled bowed unto him, 
while there arose about us on every hand the articulate sound of Aum, clear and lasting.’’ 

A Vaishnavite version cf the same myth twists it towards the end to establish the 
supremacy of Vishnu. According to this version, Brahma falsely claimed to have reached 
the top of the Lingam while Vishnu admitted he could not find its base. On this, Shiva 
cut off one of Brahma's heads and acknowledged Vishnu as the greatest of the Triad for 
having spoken the truth. 

Brahma* 

In the Yajur Veda, the Supreme Being is introduced speaking thus : 'From me 
Brahma was bom ; he is above all ; he is Pitamaha, or the father of all men ; he is Aja 
and Swayambhu or self-existing.’ Elsewheie he is described as ‘the first of the gods; 
framer of the universe ; guardian of the world.' 'From him all things pioceeded and in 
him pre-existed the universe ; comprehending all material forms which he at once called 
into creation or arranged existence, as they are now seen, although perpetually changing 
their appearances by the operation of the reproductive power. As the oak exists in the 
acorn, as the fruit is in the seed, awaiting development and expansion, so all material 
forms existed in Brahma and their germs were at once produced by him.’ 

In the Puranas different accounts of his origin are given. In one place he is de- 
scribed as having been bom of the Supreme Being when the latter united with His energy, . 
Maya, Elsewhere It is said he, was hatched cut cf the Golden Egg that lay Seating 
primal waters. But the most widely accepted version is that he was bom of a lotus that 
sprang up from Vishnu's navel, obviously a Vaishnavite myth. 

Brahma has four heads. Originally he had five, of which one was cut off by Shiva. 
The Matsya Parana gives the following account of the origin of his heads : 

“ Brahma formed from his own immaculate substance a female who is celebrated 
under the names of Satarupa, Savitri, Sarasvati, Gayatri, and Brahmani. Beholding 
his daughter bom from his own body Brahma became wounded with the arrow’s of love, 
and exclaimed, 4 How surpassingly lovely she is 1 ’ Satarupa turned to the right side 
from his gaze ; but as Brahma wished to look at her, a second head issued from his body. 
As she passed to the left, and behind him, to avoid his amorous glances, two other heads 
successively appeared. At length she sprang into the sky ; and as Brahma was anxious 
to gaze after her there, a fifth head was immediately formed.’’ 

* Biahma la not to be contused •vrfth Biahm, the impersonal Supreme Being without attributes ; Brahma Is a mine 1 bemg 
in comparison, more or less a magnified human being whose chief occupation is creation. - . ' 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


23 


There are different versions of the incident that led to the loss of the fifth head of 
Brahma. In one account it is related that Shiva nipped it off with his nail when it began 
to babble about Brahma’s superiority over Shiva. Elsewhere it is said that Shiva cut it 
off on its telling a lie, a myth already noticed. A third account is that Brahma was punished 
by Shiva in this manner for committing incest with his daughter in a drunken bout. A 
fourth vision relates that Shiva cursed Brahma for asking an insolent boon by which 
Brahma Wanted Shiva to be bom as a son to liim, and the power of this curse deprived 
Brahma of his fifth head. 

In all these stories Shiva is said to have cut off the head, and hence it is surmised 
that the myths indicate the overthrow of the worshippers of Brahma by those of Shiva. 

Brahma is depicted in art as a four-headed deity, red in colour. He is dressed 
in white raiment and rides upon a goose. Each of the four Vedas are said to have sprung 
from one of his heads. Hence he is considered the deity of wisdom, and intellectuals arc 
particularly devoted to him. 

The heaven of Brahma is described in the Mahabharata as "eight hundred miles 
by four hundred, and forty miles high.” Narada, the most gifted of all the sages, could 
not describe it in detail in two hundred years. Brahma's heaven is said to contain "in a 
superior degree all the excellence of other heavens ; and that whatever existed on earth, 
from the smallest insect to the largest animal, was also to be found there." 

At present there is no important temple exclusively dedicated to this deity except 
one at Pushkar in Ajmer. In certain temples dedicated to other gods, an idol of Brahma 
is also placed as a subsidiary deity and honoured. The work of creation is over, and pro- 
bably the present-day Hindus think that the work is sad and man need not be over-grateful 
to the creator ! 

Brahma has many names of which the following are the most common : Prajapati 
(lord of creatures) ; Pitamaha {the great patriarch) ; Kamalasana (’•c who is seated on 
the lotus) ; Atmabhu (self-existent) ; Paramcsti (the chief sacrificcr) ; Hiranyagarbha 
(bom of the Golden Egg) ; Savitripathi (husband of Savitri) ; and Adikavi (the first poet). 

Vishnu 

The Vaishnavas emphasize the principle of being (preservation) as the only reality. 
They maintain that nothing is destroyed. Destruction and creation are but changes 
of forms ; the essence of things is indestructible. Hence the Deity in the character of 
preservation is supreme. 

The Bhagbata observes : "Even I (Vishnu) was at first. Afterwards I am that 
which is ; and he who must remain am I. Except the First Cause, whatever may appear 
in the mind, know that to be the mind’s Maya or delusion, as light, as darkness. As the 
great elements arc in various beings, yet not entering, (that is pervading, not destroying) 
thus am I in them, yet not in them." 

In his personal character, Vishnu is the most lovable of all the deities. He is con- 
siderate and polite, full of forgiveness and tender thoughts towards his devotees. He is 
ever watchful of the welfare of gods and men, and in his dealings with their enemies is 
often more diplomatic than ruthless. The following myth aptly describes the genial disposi- 
tion of the god : "Bhrigu (a sage) on being once asked in an assembly of the gods who 
of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva was the greatest, undertook the task of ascertaining the 
point by a somewhat hazardous experiment. He first proceeded to Brahma, whom he 



24 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


purposely neglected to treat with his customary respect and decorum ; which unusual 
proceeding drew upon him the indignation and lavish abuse of that deity. He then repaired 
to Shiva, to whom he behaved in a still more offensive manner ; which roused in a much 
greater degree the anger of that impatient and vindictive personage. Bhrigu, however, 
on both these occasions by timely apologies, made his peace and retired. He finally pro- 
ceeded to the heaven of Vishnu whom he found asleep with Lakshmi sitting by him. Know- 
ing the mild temper of the god, he judged that a mere appearance of disrespect would not, 
as in the two former cases, be sufficient to try it ; he therefore approached the sleeping 
deity, and gave him a severe kick on the breast. On this Vishnu awoke ; and instead of 
being indignant, he not only expressed his apprehensions and regret lest the sage should 
have hurt his foot, but benevolently proceeded to chafe it. Bhrigu, on witnessing this, 
exclaimed : 'This god is the mightiest, since he overpowers all by goodness and generosity/ ” 

Vishnu is represented in art as reposing on the coils of the serpent Shesha, his wife 
sitting at his feet. The stem of a lotus shoots up from his navel, and on the blossom sits 
Brahma. Vishnu has four hands in each of which he holds a Shank (conch shell), Chakra 
(a circular missile weapon) , Gadha (mace) , or Padma (lotus) . His Vahan (charger) is Garuda, 
man-bird. The colour of the deity is black. His heaven is Vaikunta, made entirely of 
gold. *Tts circumference is 80,000 miles. All its buildings are made of jewels. The 
pillars and ornaments of the building are of precious stones. The Celestial Ganges flows 
through it. In Vaikunta are also five pools containing blue, red and white lotuses. 'On a 
seat glorious as the meridian sun, sitting on white lotuses is Vishnu and on his right side 
Lakshmi, who shines like a continued blaze of lightning, and from whose body the frag- 
rance of the lotus extends 800 miles." 

Vishnu has one thousand names but the scope of this book does not permit me 
to mention them all. These names are strung together in verse and repeated by the pious 
as a sort of litany to obtain absolution from sins. The benefits that accrue from repeating 
these names are many. Even Yama, the Lord of Death, is said to have no power over a 
devotee of Vishnu. In the Vishnu Puraua Yama tells one of his deputies : "I am lord 
of all men, Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu) excepted. I was appointed by Brahma 
to restrain mankind and regulate the consequences of good and evil. But he who worships 
Hari (Vishnu) is independent of me. He who through his holy knowledge diligently adores 
the lotus foot of Hari is released from all the bonds of sin and you must avoid him as you 
would fire fed with oil.” Again, "he who pleases Vishnu obtains all terrestrial enjoy- 
ments and a place in heaven and, what is best of all, final liberation. Whatever he wishes, 
and to whatever extent, whether much or little, he receives it when Achyuta (Vishnu) is 
content with him." 

The Vaishnavas form the most powerful sect in India at present. They are dis- 
tinguished, in South India particularly, by perpendicular marks on the forehead. Vishnu 
is worshipped by them as a single deity or jointly with his consort Lakshmi. He is also 
worshipped as in one of his Avatars or incarnations. 

The Avatars of Vishnu 

As the preserver of the universe, Vishnu had on many occasions left his celestial 
abode for other worlds and assumed various forms to destroy evil and establish the reign 
of righteousness. "Whenever the law fails and lawlessness uprises," says Krishna (an 
avatar of Vishnu) to Aijuna in the Giia, "O thou of-BhaTata race, then do I bring myself 
to bodied birth. To guard the righteous, to destroy evil-doers, to establish the law, I 
come into birth age after age.” 



PLATE IX 



JINMA, SVrA AND 11ANUMAN 
(I'hoto ‘ K. A. I.. Ran) 


PLATE X 



XMINSIMIT.V 
(Hnnie. Madras Mnstuiu) 


*3 


VAM \.VA 

(I!nti«h Museum) 



PLATE XI 





PLATE X 



21 BOAR INCARNATION 

(From Khajuraho 

Copyright : Archaeological I>cpt. of India) 









EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


The Vishnu Purana gives the following exposition of the subject : "At the close of 
the last age, the divine Brahma endowed with the quality of goodness awoke from his night 
of sleep and beheld the universal void. He, the supreme Narayana, invested with the form 
of Brahma concluding that within the waters lay the earth and being desirous to raise it up, 
created another form for that purpose. And as in the preceding ages he had assumed the 
shape of a fish or a tortoise, so in this he took the form of a boar. Having adopted a form 
composed of the sacrifices of the Vedas for the preservation of the whole earth, the eternal, 
supreme, and universal soul plunged into the ocean. 

According to the Vayu Purana, the form of a boar was chosen "because it is an 
animal delighting in water." 

Another version of this myth is that a demon named Hiranyaksha propitiated 
Brahma by penances and received a boon which exempted him from hurt by god, man 
or beast. But while enumerating all possible forms of beings from whom lie claimed 
exemption, he omitted through an oversight, to include the boar in the list. After receiving 
the boon Hiranyaksha began to persecute gods and men. In his arrogance he stole the 
Vedas while Brahma was asleep, and dragged the earth into his abode in the nether regions 
under the waters ; and Vishnu, assuming the form of a boar, killed him with his tusks, 
regained the Vedas and caused the earth to float once again. 

The boar is described in the Vayu Parana as "ten Yojanas in breadth, and a 
thousand Yojanas in height ; his colour dark and his roar like thunder. His bulk 
was vast as a mountain ; his tusks were white, sharp and fearful ; fire flashed from 
his eyes like lightning ; and he was radiant as the sun. His shoulders were round, fat 
and large ; he strode along like a powerful lion ; his haunches were fat, his loins slender, 
and his body was smooth and beautiful" 

4. Narastmha 

Vishnu assumed the form of man-lion to kill Hiranyakasipu the brother of Hiran- 
yaksha who had been slain by Varaha. Hiranyakasipu too, like his brother, propitiated 
Brahma and obtained a boon which gave him immunity from all conceivable forms of 
danger. He could not be killed by god, man or beast. He could die neither by day nor 
by niglit ; neither inside nor outside his home. Thus protected, he proceeded to claim 
divine honours for himself and prohibited all forms of worship in his kingdom. But his 
own son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Vishnu, and the lad was caught red-handed 
in the act of worshipping that deity. Hiranyakasipu advised his son to give up his devo- 
tional exercises but Praldad refused. He was flogged and sent to a preceptor notorious 
for his atheistic doctrines. On Iris return from his teacher Prahlad was, however, found 
to be as ardent a devotee of Visbnu as ever. This enraged Hiranyakasipu beyond alt 
measure and, "highly exasperated, he commanded serpents to fall upon his disobedient 
and insane son and bite him to death. The serpents did their worst, but FraWad felt 
them not. The snakes cried out to the king, 'our fangs are broken, our jewelled crests 
arc burst ; there is fever in our hoods, and fear in our hearts ; but the skin of the youth 
is still unscathed. Have recourse, O King of the Daityas, to some other expedient.’ " 

Other forms of torture followed. But, elephants "vast as mountains" could not 
hurt Prahlad. Nor could he be killed by being thrown down precipices. Attempts at 
drowning him in the ocean also failed. Steadfast in his meditation of Vishnu, Prahlad 
came out of all these ordeals unscathed. Baffled, Hiranyakasipu decided to win o v c r 
his son by arguments. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


2 7 


One day, while Hiranyakasipu was sitting in his palace and speaking to his son 
on the fallacy of Vishnu- worship, the latter began to chant the praises of Vishnu. “Where 
is your Vishnu?" Asked Hiranyakasipu in a rage. “Everywhere," replied Prahlad. 
“Is he in this pillar ?” Asked Hiranyakasipu again. “Certainly," said Prahlad. “Then 
I will kill him," said the demon-king and, getting up, kicked the pillar. 

Out of the pillar sprang forth Narasimha, and he tore Hiranyakasipu to pieces. 
It is said the incident took place by evening (which is neither day nor night) on the doorway 
of Hiranyakasipu’s palace (which is neither inside nor outside his home) ; and since man- 
lion is neither god, beast nor man, the provisions of Brahma's boon were respected to the 
letter. 

5. Vamana 

Bali, a grandson of Prahlad, ruled his kingdom well and wisely but was ambitious. 
He decided to enlarge the frontiers of his kingdom and began to perform a great sacrifice. 
Indra, king of the gods, was troubled as it was evident that Bali’s object was to acquire 
the celestial kingdom and drive away the gods from their abode. He consulted his pre- 
ceptor Brahaspati who confirmed his fears and added that, as Bali’s sacrifice had gone 
too far, nothing could be done to prevent his conquest of Indra just then, and the gods 
would be well advised to leave their kingdom. This was done. 

Afterwards Vishnu was propitiated by the gods by penances and prayers and he 
took birth as the son of Brahaspati.* The child was a deformed dwarf. When he reached 
boyhood he went to Bali begging alms and Bali, famous for his generosity, told the dwarf 
he could have anything he wanted. The dwarf made Bali promise on oath that he would 
give him three paces of land. The pigmy then grew to inconceivable proportions and 
measured the three worlds in two paces. There was no more land for the third pace and 
Bali was accused of not having kept his promise and sent to the nether regions. 

A legend tells us that Bali was much devoted to Iiis subjects and begged Vishnu 
to permit him to visit his lost kingdom once a year, and that Vishnu agreed. Onam, the 
most important festival in Malabar, is annually celebrated for the reception of Bali, and 
during the ten days of this festival there are exceptional feasting and merry-making in 
the land so that the ancient king may feel at ease seeing his people happy. 

Bali was probably a popular Dravidian king whom the Aryans overcame by strategy. 
Scholars even opine that he was king of Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram (an ancient 
city, now' in ruins, near Madras.). 

6. Parasurama 

The story of this Avatar indicates a caste-conflict between Brahmins and Kshatriyas 
in which the former w r ere victorious. Vishnu is said to have been bom as a militant Brahmin 
to annihilate the Kshatriyas who had become arrogant and begun to oppress Brahmins. 

Jamadagni, a Brahmin hermit, who lived in the w’oods had a faithful and virtuous 
wife who was the mother of his five sons. One day she went to the river to bathe and, as 
ill-luck would have it, saw in the river a handsome man sporting with a damsel. She looked 
at the amorous pair, took pleasure in unholy thoughts and even desired to enjoy the company 
of the handsome man. On her return to the hermitage her husband beholding her 1 alien 
from her ‘perfection and shorn •of the lustre of her sanctity' reproached her and w’as ex- 
‘ ceedingly wroth. 

* In a different version he is said to have heen born of the sage Kasyapa. 



28 


EPICS, 3IYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


All the sons of the hermit were, at that time, out in the woods gathering berries. 
They came home one by one and Jamadagni asked each of them to kill his mother. Four 
sons refused to become matricides. The angry sage cursed his disobedient sons and they 
became idiots. Lastly came Parasurama, the youngest, to whom Jamadagni said : “KiU 
thy mother who has sinned ; and do it without repining." Rama promptly took his 
Parasu (axe ; hence his name Parasurama) and cut off his mother's head. Jamadagni, 
greatly pleased with his son, asked him to demand of him any boons he wished. Rama 
begged for these boons : "The restoration of his mother to life with forgetfulness of having 
been slain and purification from all defilement ; the return of his brothers to their natural 
condition ; and for himself invincibility in single combat, and length of days." These 
were granted. 

The incident that led to Parasurama’s swearing undying vengeance on Kshatriyas 
is thus related in the Ramayana. 

One day, Karthavirya (a Kshatriya king with one thousand arms) went out 
hunting and strayed into Jamadagni’s hermitage. The sage's wife received him with 
deference and extended to him the hospitality of her hermitage. Walking about the 
compound, the king saw the hermit's wonderful cow Kamadhenu which yielded what- 
ever was desired of her. He thought that a powerful king like himself should possess 
such a cow and not a hermit living in the forest, and hence drove her off. Neither Jama- 
dagni nor any of his sons was in the hermitage at that time and the hermit’s wife could do 
nothing to prevent this shameful violation of the rules of hospitality. 

Shortly after, Rama returned and, on hearing what had happened, started in hot 
pursuit of Karthavirya. Rama overtook and killed him in battle and brought back the 
cow. 

News of Karthavirya’s death reached his sons and they marched on the hermitage 
of Jamadagani with a big army. They arrived at the sage’s abode at a time when his 
sons were away, caught the unresisting old man, put him to death, and made good their 
escape. Parasurama was greatly enraged at this dastardly act and took an oath that 
he would destroy the whole race of Kshatriyas. 

It is said that in twenty-one campaigns he cleared the earth of Kshatriyas, and 
that all the so-called Kshatriyas who exist at present are sons of Brahmins bom of 
Kshatriya ladies. 

In the Ramayana there is an account of an encounter between Parasurama and 
Ramachandra in which the latter was victorious. Ramachandra, as will be noticed 
presently, was also an Avatar of Vishnu, and as the story of Vishnu overcoming Vishnu 
might appear absurd, the conflict was made to centre round two bows (of Vishnu and of 
Shiva) which were used in the combat. It is said Vishnu's bow came out victorious and 
Ramachandra’s dynasty was saved from the wrath of Parasurama. 

The legend is considered an interpolation which was put in the text to establish 
beyond doubt Ramachandra’s claim for Avatarship, and is in conflict with the widely 
accepted belief of Parasurama's invincibility. 

7. Ramachandra 

The Hindu epic Ramayana (a work of 24,000 Sloakas or stanzas in length) chronicles 
in detail the story of Rama, called Ramachandra to distinguish him from Parasurama. 
The object of this Avatar was to kill the ten-headed demon Ravana, king of Lanka (Ceylon). 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


2 9 

Havana by his austerities propitiated Brahma and Shiva who granted him certain boons 
by virtue of which he could not be killed by gods, Gandharvas or demons. Havana was 
contemptuous of men and disdained to ask for immunity from them. After receiving the 
boons he started persecuting gods and men. The gods, greatly distressed, approached 
Brahma who observed that Havana could only be killed by a god assuming human form ; 
and Vishnu, as the preserver, agreed to be bom as man. The other gods also promised 
to help him by either assuming various forms and descending to earth or by imparting 
their energy to men and animals. 

At that time there reigned in Ayodhya (modem Oudh), a king named Dasaratha. 
He was a descendant of the illustrious solar dynasty of kings and ruled his kingdom justly 
and well. The king had three wives but no sons, and hence after many years of vain auste- 
rities, he at last performed the horse sacrifice, the utmost a king could do to please the 
gods ; and as a result, he was blessed with four sons. Rama, the eldest (in whom Vishnu 
assumed human form), was bom of Kausalya, Bharata of Kaikeyi, and Lakshman and 
Satrughna of Sumitra. 

From the very childhood Rama and Lakshman became inseparable companions. 
The two boys gave promise of a great military career and, at a tender age, were taken by 
the sage Viswamitra to the forest abodes of hermits where they distinguished themselves 
by killing many wicked Rakshasas who harassed the poor hermits. 

While the boys were wandering in the forests they heard that Janaka, king of Mitliila, 
had a lovely daughter, Sita by name (she was an incarnation of Lakshmi, Vishnu's wife, 
and was bom of no woman but of mother earth herself, and was picked up by Janaka 
from a paddy-field) w’ho was to be given in marriage to any one who could bend a powerful 
bow Shiva had given Janaka. Viswamitra conducted the young princes to Janaka’s 
court and Rama not only bent the great bow but broke it. He married Sita and with 
his bride proceeded to Ayodhya where they were enthusiastically received by Dasaratha 
and the citizens. 

Seeing that he was growing old and Rama had come of age, Dasaratha decided to 
install Rama on the throne. An auspicious day was fixed for the installation ceremony 
and a proclamation was issued to the effect. And in Ayodhya there w r as great rejoicing. 
Kausalya, mother of Rama, was the happiest lady in the Kingdom. 

Now’, Kaikeyi, the second wife of Dasaratha, had a maid-servant named Manthara, 
'crooked in mind and body.' On the eve of Rama's installation on the throne, she 
approached Kaikeyi and addressed her thus : “O senseless woman, why art thou idle and 
content, w’hen such misfortune is thine ?" Kaikeyi was not aware of any misfortune 
impending or manifest and told her servant so. “0 my lady,” said Manthara, "a terrible 
destruction aw’aits thy bliss, so that I am sunk in fear immeasurable, and afflicted with 
heaviness and grief, burning like fire, have I sought thee hurriedly. Thou art verily a Queen 
on Earth, but though thy lord speaks blatantly he is crafty and crooked-hearted within 
and wills thee harm. It is Kausalya's welfare that he seeks, not thine, whatever sweet 
W'ords he may have for thee. Bharata, thy son is discarded and Rama is set upon the 
throne. Indeed, my girl, thou hast nursed for thy husband a poisonous snake. Now' 
quickly act and find a way to save Bharata, thyself and me." 

The -wicked hunchback worked up Kaikeyi to a pitch of jealousy, and the latter 
sought an audience with the king and begged of him a boon. The king, in a weak moment, 
swore he w'ould do anything to please his beloved Kaikeyi ; upon which she asked him to 
set Bharata on the throne and send Rama into exile to wander for fourteen years in the 



32 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


After delivering his message to Sita, Hanuman sported himself in the royal park 
destroying the king's favourite plants and flowers. The Rakshasas caught him, tied his 
hands and feet and took him to Ravana. Before Ravana, Hanuman contrived to sit on a 
higher level than he, by coiling his long tail and making a seat of it. Ravana would have 
killed the insolent monkey but for the fact that Hanuman described himself as an envoy 
whose life, by the rules of diplomacy, was sacred. He, however, asked his attendants to 
set fire to the monkey's tail. Clothes dipped in oil were wound round Hanuman's long 
tail and set fire to. But the monkey escaped with his burning tail and, jumping from one 
building to another, set the whole of Lanka ablaze. After this, he jumped back to the 
mainland and acquainted Rama with all that he had done in Lanka, 

The bridge across the strait was built and tlie army of Rama crossed over to Lanka. 
Vibhishana, Havana's brother, was won over by Rama, and he divulged many secrets about 
Ravana’s powers and the defences of Lanka. 

The Rakshasas came out of the city and fierce battles were fought with varying for- 
tune. Twice were Rama and Lakshman wounded by the indomitable Indrajit, Ravana' s 
son, who had conquered Indra himself. Kumbhakama (Pot-Ear), Ravana 's huge brother, 
caught the monkeys by the hundred and devoured them. Rama and Lakshman were 
restored to health by a magic herb Hanuman brought from the Himalayas within an in- 
credibly short time. In spite of terrible losses the monkey host pressed hard upon the 
Rakshasas who were destroyed in large numbers. Indrajit, Kumbhakama and other 
Rakshasa generals were slain. At last Ravana himself came out and met Rama in single 
combat. It was a terrible encounter. The earth trembled and the gods from above gazed 
on. ‘‘Each like a flaming lion fought the other ; head after head of the Ten-necked one did 
Rama cut away with his deadly arrows, but new heads ever rose in place of those cut off, 
and Ravana’s death seemed nc vise nearer than before. The arrows that had slain Mancha 
and Khara and Bali couid not take the king of Lanka's life away. Then Rama took up 
the Brahma weapon given to him by Agastya : the Wind Jay in its wings, the Sun and Fire 
in its heads, in its mass the weight of Meru and Mandara. Blessing that shaft with Vedic 
Mantras, Rama set it on his mighty bow and loosed it, and it sped to its appointed place and 
cleft the breast of Ravana, and bathed in blood, returned and entered Rama’s quiver.” 

On Havana's death there was great rejoicing in heaven and the gods showered celes- 
tial flowers on Rama. 

Ravana slain, Vibhishana brought Sita to Rama in a gaily decorated car. But to 
the amazement of all, Rama was cold to her; in fact, he refused to accept her. For, 
said he :• 

“Ravana bore thee through the sky Close to his breast his captive drew ; 

And fixed on thine his evil eye ; And kept thee, vassal of his power, 

About thy waist his arms he threw. An inmate of his ladies' bower.” 

Sita was deeply humiliated by these cruel words of Rama and, to prove her innocence 
or perish in the attempt, decided to undergo the fire-ordeal. At her request Lakshman 
prepared the pyre and Sita jumped into it. The sky itself proclaimed her innocence. 
Agni, the god of fire, conducted her to Rama and asked him to accept her. Rama took 
her hand and observed that even before the ordeal he was convinced of her purity but 
wanted to prove it to others. 

The term of exile was now over, and Rama, Sita and Lakshman together with 



PLATE XIII 



31 HW11W KILLING AN 

ASURA 

(Photo - K. A. L. Rao) 



33 HANGMAN PRESENTING 
RAMA'S RING TO SITA 
(Photo ; K. A. L Raa) 



33 MAN I'M AN KILLING AN 
ASl RA 

(Photo K A L Rao) 



34 IIANUMAN RECEIVING 
RAMA'S RING 
(Photo . K. A L Rao) 


35 SATRl (»HN \ 


BHARAT A 


LAKSHM AN RAMA 

(Ivory From Tmandrum) 


sita 



37 


HAVANA MOOING SITA 
(From a Rajput painting) 






35 SATIUGHlsA BHARAT A LAKSHMAN RAMA SIT A HANVMAJv 

(Ivorj Prom Tmmdrum) 



37 HAVANA WOOING SIT A 


36 S1TA UNI)!. (4 THE ASOKA TREE (Horn a Rajput pamt.ng) 

(From a stone plaque in a Bangalore 
temple. Photo K. A. L. Rao) 









PLATE XVI 



ANGADA ANP THE MONKEY CHIFFS 





THE HINDU PANTHEON 


33 


many monkey generals and their wives proceeded to Ayodhya. They entered the city 
in great pomp and Rama was crowned king. And then ensued a reign of prosperity un- 
precedented in history or even mythology. 


“Ten thousand years Ayodhya, blest 
With Rama's rule, had peace and rest. 
No widow mourned her murdered mate. 
No house was ever desolate. 

The happy land no murrain knew. 


The flocks and herds increased and grew, 
The earth her kindly fruits supplied, 

No harvest failed, no children died. 
Unknown were want, disease, and crime, 
So calm, so happy was the time.” 


But once again trouble started. A washerman in the kingdom beat his wife sus- 
pected of adultery, and drove home the point by observing that he was not a fool like 
Rama to believe that a wife who had been kept for years by another man was pure. The 
story reached the ears of Rama and to save Sita and himself from slander he sent her away 
to a hermitage. She was pregnant at the time and in the hermitage Sita gave birth to twins. 
The children, on their reaching boyhood, were sent to Rama. On seeing the lovely boys, 
recollections of the dear old days overpowered Rama and he called back Sita to his court. 
Gladly did Sita come to her lord. But she was again asked to prove her innocence in an 
assembled court. Even Sita could not bear this. She called upon mother-earth, who 
gave her birth, to receive her back. The earth opened and received her daughter in her 
bosom. 


"After tills Rama grew tired of life, and Time came to inform him that his work was 
done. Hearing this, the good king proceeded to the banks of the sacred stream and for- 
saking his body ascended to his home in heaven.” 

Thus ends the story of Rama and Sita, unrivalled for pathos in the whole realm of 
epic literature. 

It may be mentioned, that the Ramayana marks a definite stage in the development 
of Hindu society. While in the Vcdic times women were comparatively free socially and 
economically, the ideal woman of the Ramayana has no life apart from her husband’s. 


8. Krishna 

In Krishna we have the most popular of all the Avatars. Although the main object 
of the Avatar was to kill Kansa, a demon bom of a woman, Krishna is mostly remembered 
by his devotees for his various other activities. He was brought up among a pastoral 
people and, as a child, was the pet of the milkmaids. As a boy he tended flocks and played 
with the sons of cowherds in the fields and pastures of Vrindavan. As a youth he was 
the beloved of the village damsels with whom he sang and danced in the Arcadian fields 
of Ambadi. In middle age he distinguished himself as a ruler, diplomat and soldier. He 
was a faithful friend and a wise counsellor. He served as envoy for the Pandavas in their 
negotiations with the Kauravas. In the Mahabharata battle he drove Arj una’s chariot. 
And it was he who sang the Bhagvadgita (the song celestial) to Arjuna, the most widely 
accepted view of life among the Hindus. 

Ugrasena, king of Muthra, had a beautiful wife and a demon became enamoured 
of her. One day, he assumed the form of Ugrasena and had conjugal relations with her ; 
and of this union was bom Kansa. Even as a child Kansa was cruel and, coming, of 
age, he fought with liis father, imprisoned him and usurped the throne. His oppression 
became intolerable and the ever-patient earth herself revolted. She assumed the form of a 



34 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


cow and went to the gods for redress of her wrong. The gods conducted her to Brahma 
who conducted them to Shiva, who, in his turn conducted them to Vishnu. Vishnu pro- 
mised to deliver the earth of her burden of Kansa and decided to assume human form 
to destroy him. 

Kansa had a sister named Devaki and on the occasion of her marriage with Vasu- 
deva, a noble in the kingdom, a strange thing happened. Kansa himself was driving 
the bridal car when a voice thundered from the sky : "Fool 1 The eighth child of 
the damsel you are now driving shall take your life." Kansa was greatly alarmed and 
was about to slay Devaki when Vasudeva interceded on her behalf and implored him to 
spare the lady, and added that he would give over her children to Kansa as soon as they 
were bom. Kansa spared the lady but put her and her husband under guard. 

Six children were bom to Devaki and Kansa destroyed the little innocents one after 
another. Devaki conceived for the seventh time. The embryo was Lakshman who, 
from his celestial abode, descended to the earth to keep Rama company in his incarnation 
as Krishna, and had to be saved. So Vishnu by his divine power transferred the embryo 
from the womb of Devaki to that of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva, and a report of 
miscarriage was sent to Kansa. Rohini gave birth to the child and he was called Balarama. 

Devaki conceived for the eighth time. The embryo grew and Kansa strengthened 
the guard that watched Devaki. On the eve of the night the child was to be bom, the 
Lord appeared to Vasudeva and told him : "Tonight will Devaki deliver her child. Take 
it hence to Yasoda, wife of Nanda, the herdsman. She too will give birth to a child. 
Placing your child by her side bring hers to Devaki." 

At midnight Krishna was bom. The guards were fast asleep and the door of the 
prison stood wide open. Vasudeva took the child and fled towards Nanda’s home. The 
great serpent Shesha went before him as a guide. The Yamuna was in floods but on 
Vasudeva's approach the waters receded. He forded the river, reached Nanda's house, 
gained Yasoda's apartments without anyone (not even Yasoda) seeing him, and exchanging 
the babes returned safely to his prison. 

The guards now woke up and hearing the cry of the new-born babe sent word to 
Kansa. He rushed to Devaki’s bed-chamber and seized the child. But while raising it to 
dash it on a stone, the babe escaped into the sky and exclaimed : "Fool 1 I am Yoganidra, 
the great illusion. The child that is destined to kill you is born ; he is alive and well." 

Kansa took fright and shut himself up in his palace. Fearing no more harm from 
Vasudeva and Devaki, he however, set them free. 

Vasudeva took his son Balarama also to Nanda and asked him to bring him up with 
Krishna. Lest Kansa should try to harm the children, he asked Nanda to leave Muthra 
and repair to Gokula where there were plenty of pastures and water for the cattle. And 
Nanda with the children went to Gokula and lived there among his kinsmen, all cowherds, 

Kansa finding no way of distinguishing the child destined to kill him, ordered a 
general massacre of children. Putana, a female fiend, on sucking whose breast children 
died instantly, offered Krishna breast. Krishna took it and sucked so hard that Putana 
died on the spot. 

Now it appeared fairly certain to Kansa that Krishna was the child destined to 
destroy him, and a demon was sent to kill him. Krishna was wandering alone in the woods 
when the demon appeared ; and he caught the demon by the leg and dashed his head 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


35 


against a rock. Another demon assuming the form of a huge raven caught Krishna in 
his beak ; but the boy grew hot and the raven released its hold. Thereupon Krishna 
stamped its nether beak with his foot and turned the other inside out with his hands, and 
thus destroyed it. Yet another demon came as a huge serpent and swallowed Krishna, 
but the latter grew to such proportions inside the reptile's stomach that its belly burst open 
and the serpent died. 

Nor were Krishna's activities confined to combating the powers of evil sent against 
him by Kansa. He was full of childish tricks and played many practical jokes on the 
milkmaids. He stole butter and milk, and when questioned, accused someone else. He 
organized children's raids into the orchards of cowherds who were full of complaints 
against him. Once, while the village girls were bathing in a stream, lie stole their clothes, 
hid himself in a tree and made them come to him naked. He used to delight the girls by 
playing on his flute, and dancing. 

He also cleared the countryside of many demons that haunted it. The serpent 
Kaliya that lived in the river Kalindi skirting the pastures of Gokula was a menace to the 
herdsmen and cattle, and Krishna made him depart from the river. One day in a buoyant 
mood he took the mountain Govardhana and held it as an umbrella over Gokula to save 
the village from excessive rain caused by Indra. 

Reports of the prowess of Krishna reached Kansa and he devised a grand plan for 
killing the boy. He sent Akrura, one of the few virtuous men in the kingdom, to Gokula 
with a polite invitation to Balarama and Krishna to go over to Muthra and witness some 
athletic sports he was organizing. Akrura delivered the message but acquainted the boys 
of the evil designs of Kansa and asked them not to accept the invitation. But Krishna 
allayed his apprehensions and accepted the invitation. The two boys then proceeded to 
Muthra iu the midst of the lamentations of the Gopis (milkmaids). 

On their way a demon named Kesin in the pay of Kansa assumed the form of a 
horse and attacked the boys. But Krishna fearlessly approached the horse and thrusting 
his hand into its mouth, caused the animal to swell and burst. Balarama and Krishna 
then proceeded towards the great city. They were clad in poor clothes and desired to 
put on better ones before entering the city. On the outskirts of Muthra they met Kansa's 
washerman who refused to lend them clothes. Krishna killed the washerman and the 
two boys put on the clothes of Kansa ; thus dressed in finery, they entered Muthra. 

The lists were prepared and the day for sports was fixed. Two fierce wrestlers were 
told off by Kansa to kill Balarama and Krishna by fair means or foul, and as an additional 
precaution an elephant was kept in readiness to trample the boys to death if the wrestlers 
failed in their attempt. But Krishna slew not only the wrestlers and the elephant, but 
vanquishing Kansa's guards slew the demon-king too. 

Krishna then released Ugrasena, Kansa's father, and installed him king of Muthra. 
Thereafter, Balarama and Krishna took up their abode in Muthra with their parents 
Vasudeva and Devaki. 

After some years, Muthra was attacked by two demon-kings, friends of Kansa, and 
unable to defend the city, Krishna and the people deserted Muthra and built Dwaraka 
an impregnable fortress that ‘could be defended by women.' From here Krishna fought 
his enemies and regained Muthra. 

As the virtual ruler of Dwaraka, Krishna fought and killed many evil kings, of whom 
Shishupala is particularly worthy of note, and will receive our attention later. These kings 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


36 

had ravished many women and kept them imprisoned in their palaces, and Krishna, to 
save them the fate of growing into old maids, married them himself. They were sixteen 
thousand in number. In addition to these, Krishna married eight other ladies of whom 
Rukmini, the daughter of Bhishmaka, king of Vidarbha, is considered the incarnation of 
Lakshmi. 

Krishna was the friend and counsellor of the Pandava princes and in the conflict 
between them and the Kauravas helped them with his advice as he was prevented by a vow 
from taking active part in the combat. He served as the charioteer of Arj una and on many 
occasions it was Krishna's excellent horsemanship that saved that hero from death. In 
fact, he was considered the ‘man behind the scene’ who directed the military operations 
for the Panda vas, and Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas, filled with grief at the loss of her 
beloved sons, cursed Krishna and predicted that he and the whole Yadu race of whom he 
was a member would perish even as the Kauravas did. 

A legend relates how this event took place. Some Yadava boys desiring to play a 
practical joke on the sage Narada dressed up Samba, a son of Krishna, as a pregnant 
woman, took him to the holy man and asked : "What child will this woman give birth to ?" 

"To an iron rod," said the angry sage, "and it will be the cause of the destruction 
of your race." 

The boys took the words of Narada as a joke but Samba began to show actual signs 
of pregnancy. In due time he delivered an iron rod and king Ugrascna ordered it to be 
ground to powder and thrown into the sea. The rod was practically ground to powder 
but a small portion could not be broken and this, together with the dust, was thrown into 
the sea. The iron dust was washed ashore and grew into rushes. The unbroken piece 
was swallow ed by a fish which was caught by a fisherman. The fisherman sold the piece 
of iron found in the belly of the fish to a hunter named Jara and the latter made it into 
an arrow point. 

Krishna was now informed by the gods of the impending destruction of the race. 
Trying to save his people Krishna advised them to leave Dwaraka and migrate to a place 
called Prabhasa. The citizens started for Prabhasa but on their way halted by the seashore 
and indulged in liquor and merry-making. A quarrel broke out between two drunkards 
which soon spread to the whole camp. Krishna and Balarama tried to make peace but 
could not succeed. The fight became violent and the combatants seized for arms the 
rushes that grew out of the iron dust, and the whole race of Yadus, except Balarama and 
Krislma, perished on the fatal day. The two brothers then proceeded to a forest nearby, 
and while they were sitting on a rock, a serpent crawled out of the mouth of Balarama— 
the serpent Shcsha of whom he was, according to some accounts, the incarnation — leaving 
the lifeless body on the rock. The lone Krishna now sat on the river bank meditating 
on the sadness of life, and the hunter Jara, who was wandering in the forest in search of 
game, mistook him for a deer and shot him with the fatal arrow made of the cursed rod. 
And Krishna, the last but by no means the least of the Yadavas, died. 

9. The Buddha 

Myths connected with the Buddha will be noticed in Part II. It may, however, 
be mentioned here how the Buddha who taught doctrines considered heretical by orthodox 
Hindus came to be honoured as an Avatar of Vishnu. "The Brahmanical writers," 
observes Rev. Wilkins,* "were far too shrewd to admit that one who exerted such immense 

« i/iiiiu Mytitiity. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


37 

influence and won so many disciples could be other than an incarnation of the deity; but 
as his teaching was opposed to their own, they cleverly say that it was to mislead the enemies 
of the gods that he promulgated his doctrine, that they, becoming weak and wicked through 
error, might be led once again to seek the help and blessing of those whom they had previ- 
ously neglected." 

"At the commencement of the Kaliyuga," says the Bhagbata, will Vishnu become 
incarnate in Kikata, under the name of Buddha, the son of Jina for the purpose of delud- 
ing the enemies of the gods.” 

In the Skanda Puratta the doctrines lie taught are thus summarized : "Vishnu as the 
Buddha taught that the universe was without a creator ; it is false therefore to assert that 
there is one universal and supreme spirit, for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the rest are 
names of mere corporeal beings like ourselves. Death is a peaceful sleep, why fear it ? . . . . 
He also taught that pleasure is the only heaven and pain the only hell, and liberation from 
ignorance the only beatitude. Sacrifices arc acts of folly." Lakshmi is also mentioned as 
having assumed the form of a woman and taught the female disciples "to place all happiness 
in sexual pleasures; as the body must decay let us, before it becomes dust, enjoy the pleasure 
it gives." 

While it is true that the Buddha repudiated the sanctions of caste, preached the futility 
of sacrifices and passed the Deity by, he was, as will be seen later, anything but a hedonist. 

io. Kalki 

As noticed elsewhere (page 17), according to a Hindu legend the end of the world 
will be brought about by Vishnu in his Avatar as Kalki. In the Vishnu Purana the need 
for destroying the world and building it anew is thus vividly described : "The kings of 
the earth will be of churlish spirit, violent temper, and ever addicted to falsehood and 
wickedness. They will inflict death on women, children, and cows ; they will seize the 
property of subjects, be of limited power, and will, for the most part, rapidly rise and fatl ; 
their lives will be short, their desires insatiable, and they will display but little piety. The 
people of various countries intermingling with them will follow their example ; and 
barbarians being powerful in the patronage of princes, whilst purer tribes are neglected, 
the people will perish. Whcalth and piety will decrease day by day until the world shall be 
wholly depraved. Property alone will confer rank, wealth will be the only source of 
devotion, passion will be the sole bond of union between the sexes, falsehood will be the 
only means of success in litigation, and women will be the objects merely of sensual grati- 
fication. Earth will be venerated only for its mineral treasures (i.c., no spot will be 
particularly sacred) ; the Brahmanical thread will constitute a Brahmin ; external types 
will be the only distinctions of the several orders of life, dishonesty will be the universal 
means of subsistence, weakness will be the cause of dependence, menace and presumption 
will be the subterfuge for learning, liberality will be devotion, and simple ablution will be 
purification. Mutual assent will be marriage, fine clothes will be dignity, and water afar 
off will be esteemed a hoi)’ spring. The people unable to bear the heavy burden imposed 
upon them by their avaricious sovereigns will take refuge among the valleys and be glad 
to feed upon wild honey, herbs, roots, fruits, flowers and leaves, their only covering will 
be the bark of trees, and they will be exposed to cold and wind, and sun and rain. No 
man’s life will exceed three-and-twenty years. Thus in the Kali Age shall decay flourish, 
until the human -race approaches annihilation." 

In some measure, it may be mentioned, the description is representative of the present 
age ; but the age in which the author of the Vishnu Purana lived was probably no better. 



CHAPTER III 


THE HINDU PANTHEON— (C<wh'««*f) 
GODS 


Shiva 

6 O HIVA’ (auspicious) may not strike the reader as an appropriate name for the god 

of destruction. But as destruction is considered a necessary prelude to creation, 
^ the Shaivas hold that the god of destruction is also the god of creation. The essence 
of existence is dynamic ; what is indicated by destruction is the ever-occurring change in 
the universe. Nothing lasts ; everything is in a state of flux, being destroyed and rebuilt. 
What we consider continuity of existence is in reality constant, gradual and unperceived 
change. We are not what we were ten years ago ; why, a second ago we were different. 
All things are subject to the ravages of Time and nothing in this universe is permanent. 
Hence the Shaivas consider destruction as the only real aspect of the Deity. 

Although at present the worshippers of Shiva are as powerful as the Vaishanavas, 
if not more, the name of Shiva is not found in the Vedas. The Shaivas, however, maintain 
that in Vedic times he was known as Rudra and thus manage to obtain the sanction of the 
Vedas for the worship of Shiva. He was, in all probability a non-Aryan god adopted by 
Indo-Aryans. 

In the Vedas the following account of Rudra's origin is given : "The lord of. beings 
was a householder and Usha (the Dawn) was his wife. A boy was born (to them) in a year. 
The boy wept. Prajapati said to him, ‘Boy, why dost thou weep since thou hast been born 
after toil and austerity ?’ The boy said, ‘My evil has not been taken away, and a name has 
not been given to me. Give me a name.’ Prajapati said, ‘Thou art Rudra’ .... He 
was Rudra because he wept (from Rud to weep).” 

Many hymns of the Rig Veda are addressed to Rudra. "What can we utter to 
Rudra,” runs one, "the intelligent, the strong, the most bountiful, which shall be most 
pleasant to his heart, so that Aditi may bring Rudra's healing to our cattle and men and 
kine, and children ? We seek from Rudra, the lord of songs, the lord of sacrifices, who 
possesses healing remedies, his auspicious favour ; from him who is brilliant as the sun, 
who shines like gold, who is the best and most beautiful ot the gods.” 

In the PttffliiflS, while Rudra is used as a synonym of Shiva, he is also spoken of as a 
son of Brahma. One myth relates that Brahma by severe austerities propitiated Shiva who 
was requested to be bom of Brahma. Shiva, having already given the promise of granting 
any boon Brahma desired, agreed, and added a curse by which Brahma lost his fifth head. 

The Puranic account of the origin of Shiva is given elsewhere (page 21) and need 
not be repeated here. 

The habits and appearance of Shiva are somewhat peculiar. He is represented in 
art as an ascetic clad in tiger skin. He is white in complexion but his neck is black. His 
matted locks arc tied in the coils of a serpent which holds its hood raised over his 
head. Another reptile adorns his neck and a third one serves as the sacred thread. To 
enhance his looks Shiva wears a digit of the moon on his head. He has a third eye on the 
forehead. 

. . . .Unlike his compeers Brahma and Vishnu, Shiva has no celestial palaces to dwell in. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


39 

Although he repairs to Mount Kailas to practise austerities where he dwells under a tree, 
he is more or less, a homeless wanderer. The scriptures often speak of him as a wandering 
mendicant haunting cremation grounds and lonely places accompanied by 'ghosts, goblins, 
witches, imps, sprites and evil spirits.' In these expeditions he carries a skull in one hand 
and a begging bowl in the other. In his martial character he is depicted as holding a trident. 
Shiva is said to be much attached to the city of Benares. 

The Vishnu Parana says he was condemned to a wanderer’s life on account of the 
sin he committed in cutting off Brahma's head. The legend relates that Brahma and 
Shiva were born simultaneously of the Supreme Being and began to fight for supremacy. 
In the combat Shiva caught one of Brahma’s heads by its hair with one hand, and cut it 
off with the other. But the hand that held Brahma's head was paralysed and it could 
not drop the head which hung heavily from his hand. While Shiva stood thus weakened, 
Brahma created a fierce demon and let him loose on Shiva, who, unable to resist, fled and 
took asylum in Benares. In this city he was absolved of the sin committed in killing a 
Brahmin (Brahma is considered the father of Brahmins) and the head of Brahma was 
severed from his hand. He was, however, condemned, as penance, to live as a wanderer 
and beg in the streets of heaven for a living. 

A myth explains how Shiva came to possess a black neck. In the churning of the 
milk ocean (ch. vi) the serpent that was used as the churning rope vomited poison and 
Shiva, to prevent its dropping into the ocean and poisoning ambrosia, drank it himself ; 
but before it could reach his stomach and scorch it, Parvati (his wife), choked him and the 
poison got stuck, giving the neck a black hue. 

Shiva is also fabled to have received the Ganges in his locks when she descended 
to the earth from her celestial course, a full account of which incident will be given later. 

The Pnranns describe a violent feud between Shiva and Daksha (a son of Brahma) 
that culminated in the ruin of the latter. Daksha had a lovely daughter, Sati by name, 
and when she came of age he sent an invitation to all the gods requesting them to come for 
her Swayamvara (marriage by choice) so that she could wed a god of her choice. He did 
not, however, invite Shiva as he considered a person of his appearance and habits not a 
proper match for his daughter. But Sati was an ardent devotee of Shiva and had taken 
a vow not to marry anyone else. And so, when, on the wedding day, Sati entered the hall 
where the gods were assembled and could not find Shiva, she was sorely disappointed, 
and imploring Shiva to become manifest and receive the wedding garland, she threw it 
upwards. Shiva, it is said, appeared there and received the garland. Thus baffled, Daksha 
gave his daughter in marriage to Shiva with as good a grace as he could command under 
the circumstances. 

This was the beginning of the feud. The next assemblage of the gods took place 
in Brahma’s palace. On Daksha entering, all the gods except Brahma and Shiva rose to 
receive him. Brahma as the father of Daksha was not expected to rise, but Shiva ought 
to have risen when his father-in-law appeared. Daksha made his obeisance to Brahma 
and looking at Shiva obliquely with his eyes addressed the assembly thus : "Hear me, 
ye Rishis and gods, while I, neither from ignorance nor passion, describe what is the practice 

of virtuous persons But this shameless being (pointing to Shiva) detracts from the 

reputation of the guardians of the world — he by whom, stubborn as he is the course pursued 
by the good is transgressed. He assumed the position of my disciple, inasmuch as like a 
virtuous person, in the presence of Brahmins and of fire'he took the hand of. my daughter 
who resembled Savitri. This monkey-eyed fellow, after having taken the hand of my fawn 



AO 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


eyed daughter, has not even by word of mouth shown suitable respect to me, whom he 
ought to have risen and saluted. Reluctantly I gave my daughter to this impure abolisher 
of rites and demolisher of barriers, like the word of the Veda to a Sudra. He roams about 
in dreadful cemeteries attended by hosts of ghosts and spirits, like a irad man, naked with 
dishevelled ha ; r, wearing a garland of dead men's skulls and ornaments of human bones, 
pretending to be Shiva (auspicious), but in reality Ashiva (inauspicious), insane, beloved 
by the insane, lord of ghosts, beings whose nature is essentially darkness. To this wicked- 
hearted lord of the infuriate whose purity has perished, I have, alas ! given my virtuous 
daughter at the instigation of Brahma.” 

Not content with this vituperation Daksha started cursing and said : “Let this 
Bhava, (a name of Shiva) lowest of gods, never at his worship of the gods receive any portion 
along with the gods Indra, Upcndra (Vishnu) and others.” Daksha then left the assembly 
and went home. 

Daksha sat nursing his grievance, and when he performed a great sacrifice invited 
all the gods except his enemy. But, while Sati was sitting on Kailas she saw throngs of 
gods passing by the road, and, on enquiry, came to know that they were going to attend 
Daksha's sacrifice. Greatly mortified by the slight, she went to Shiva and asked him why 
he was not invited. He gave an evasive reply and tried to pacify her by sweet words, but 
Sati was inconsolable and went to her father’s house uninvited. 

On reaching Daksha’s house Sati asked her father why her husband was not invited 
to the sacrifice. Daksha fondly took his daughter on his knee and said : “Listen my 
darling, while I explain the reason why thy husband has not been invited. It is because 
he is the bearer of a human :kull, a delightcr in cemeteries, accompanied by ghosts and 
goblins, naked or merely clothed with a tiger’s or elephant's skin, covered with ashes, 
wearing a necklace of human skulls, ornamented with serpents, always wandering about 
as a mendicant, sometimes dancing and sometimes singing and neglecting all divine or- 
dinances. Such evil practices, my darling, render thy husband the shame of the three 
worlds and unworthy to be admitted to a sacrifice where Brahma, Vishnu and all the im- 
mortals and divine sages are present ?” Sati, however, was not to be cajoled and loudly 
asserted her husband's superiority over the other gods. A lengthy argument followed 
and Sati, to vindicate her husband’s honour, jumped into the sacrificial fire and burnt 
herself to death. 

Shiva, on hearing of his beloved’s death, was infuriated and immediately proceeded 
to Daksha’s house. He produced several demons from his hair and these speedily put an 
end to the sacrifice. A violent conflict ensued in which Shiva assumed a form called Vira 
Bhadra and cut off Daksha's head and put his adversaries to flight. Thereafter he took the 
charred body of Sati and addressed it thus : “Arise, arise, O my beloved Sati ! I am Shan- 
kara, thy lord ; look therefore on me who have approached thee 1 With thee I am mighty : 
the framer of all things and the giver of every bliss ; but without thee, my energy, I am 
like a corpse, powerless and incapable of action : how then, my beloved, canst thou forsake 
me ? With smiles and glances of thine eyes, say something sweet as Amrita, and with 
the rain of thy words sprinkle my heart, which is scorched with grief. Formerly, when 
thou didst see me from a distance, thou wouldst greet me with the fondest accents ; why 
then to-day art thou angry, and wilt not speak to me, thus sadly lamenting ? 0 lord of 
my soul, arise! O mother of the universe, arise 1 Dost thou not see me here weeping? 
O beauteous one ! thou canst not have expired/ Then, 0 my faithful spouse 1 why dost 
thou not honour me as usual ? And why dost thou thus, disobedient to my voice, infringe 
thy marriage vow ?’* \ 













THE HINDU PANTHEON 


41 


Shiva, having spoken thus, kissed the body of Sati again and again, pressed it to his 
bosom and in a fit of madness began to dance. He danced round the world seven times 
with the body of his spouse, and the violence of his grief and rhythm began to tell upon 
the world and its creatures. Vishnu, not knowing what Shiva's mad dance would lead to, 
cut the body of Sati into fifty pieces and these fell to the earth. The weight of the body 
now gone from his hand, Shiva came to himself. He was then supplicated by the gods 
and was pacified. He even repented of his action in killing Daksha and agreed to restore 
him to life. But in the confusion that interrupted the sacrifice the severed head of Daksha 
was lost, and in its place he was given a goat's head and restored to life. 

Sati was reborn as Uma, the daughter of the Himalayas (hence her other name 
Parvati, meaning, bom of a mountain) ; but by that time Shiva had become averse to 
sexual pleasures and Uma had to practise austerities for several years before she could 
marry him. 

The following is the Puranic account of the origin of the third eye of Shiva. One 
day, while he was sitting on Mount Kailas, Parvati stole from behind and in a playful mood 
closed his eyes with her hand. The result was catastrophic. The tlirce worlds were plunged 
in darkness, and devoid of heat and light life began to perish. But a third eye immediately 
issued forth from Shiva’s brow and saved the universe. 

Shiva is the god of rhythm and in Hindu mysticism his dance represents the ever- 
present motion in the universe. In joy and in sorrow he dances. He dances over the 
dead body of the Asura he kills, the symbolic dance of the ultimate triumph of good over 
evil. There is a legend of how he danced the mystic dance seeing which the gods and the 
serpent Shesha were dazed : 

"Once upon a time there lived in the forest of Taragam ten thousand heretical 
hermits w'ho taught anti-Shaivitc doctrines. Shiva decided to teach them the truth. He 
bade Vishnu accompany him in the form of a beautiful woman and the two entered the wild 
forest, Sliiva disguised as a wandering Yogi, Vishnu as his wife. Immediately all the 
Rishis’ wives were seized with violent longing for the Yogi ; the Rishis themselves were 
equally infatuated with the seeming Yogi's wife. Soon the whole hermitage was in an 
uproar ; but presently the hermits began to suspect that things were not quite what they 
seemed ; they gathered together, and pronounced quite ineffectual curses on the visitors. 
Then they prepared a sacrificial fire, and evoked from it a terrible tiger which rushed upon 
Shiva to devour him. He only smiled and gently picking it up he peeled off its skin with 
his little finger and wrapt it about himself like a silk shawl. Then the Rishis produced a 
horrible serpent ; but Shiva hung it round his neck for a garland. Then there appeared 
a malignant black dwarf with a great club ; but Shiva pressed his foot upon its back and 
began to dance, with his foot still pressing down the goblin. The weary hermits overcome 
with their own efforts, and now by the splendour and swiftness of the dance and the vision 
of the opening heavens, the gods having assembled to behold the dancer, threw themselves 
down before the glorious god and became his devotees.”* 

It is said the serpent Shesha was so enamoured of the dance that he left Vishnu and 
practised austerities for several years to behold the vision again. 

Shiva too like Vishnu has a thousand names of which one of the most popular is 
Mahadeva (great God). He is known by this name because in strength he is supposed 
to be greater than all the gods put together. The Mahabharaia gives an account of how 
he became so powerful.' The*Asuras s rfeccived‘a boon from Brahma by which they came 

• Myths efth s Hindus and Buddhists, by Sr. Niveditta end Dr. A. Cooroaraswaray. 



4 * 


F-PICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


in possession of three castles which could only be destroyed by the deity who was able to 
overthrow them by a single arrow. The Asuras then waged war on the gods 'and no god 
was mighty enough to send the arrow that could demolish the castles. Indra, the king 
of the gods, consulted Shiva who said that by transferring half his strength to them the gods 
would be able to overcome their enemies. But all the gods together could not sustain 
half Shiva's strength and hence they transferred half of their combined strength to Shiva, 
who now destroyed the Asuras and retained the gods’ strength to himself. 

Shiva had on occasions assumed human form. The Mahabharala says that he once 
appeared before Arjuna as a hunter in the manner described below. 

When the Pandava princes were wandering in the forests, Yudhishtira, knowing 
that the quarrel between them and the Kauravas would inevitably lead to war, asked his 
brother Arjuna to propitiate Shiva by penances and obtain from him a boon of invincibility. 
Arjuna repaired to the forests of the Himalayas and there practised austerities for many 
months, living on nothing but air. He raised so much energy by the severity of his 
penances that the worlds stood in danger of being burnt away. And Shiva decided to 
appear before his devotee and grant him the desired boon. 

One day while Arjuna was in the act of worshipping the Lingatn of Mahadeva, a 
boar rushed at him. He seized his bow and arrows and shot the boar. Arjuna's shaft 
had scarcely struck the boar when another dart shot by an unknown person killed the 
beast. Presently a hunter appeared and began to revile Arjuna for having interfered with 
his sport. Arjuna, on the other hand, thought himself the aggrieved party and a quarrel 
broke out between the two ; they decided to settle it by an appeal to arms. First they 
fought with bows and arrows and Arjuna, renowned archer as lie was, could not get the 
better of the hunter. Then they wrestled. In the midst of the combat Arjuna suddenly 
remembered that in his martial zeal he had forgotten to complete his worship, and taking 
the garland of flowers intended for worship, threw it on the Lingam of Shiva. But the gar- 
land fell on the neck of the hunter who was now metamoiphoscd into Shiva. Arjuna fell 
down before the god and adored him, and Shiva, pleased with the devotion and physical 
strength of Arjuna, granted him the desired boon and sent him back to his brother. 

Shiva is most widely worshipped in the form of the Lingam (phallus) and this cult 
will be dealt with in detail in Chapter VIII. The god is often worshipped together with 
his consort, sons and his Vahan Nandi (bull) but seldom alone. 

The Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva) are distinguished by the caste-mark of three 
horizontal lines on the forehead. While the vast majority of Shaivas worship the deity 
quietly and decently, it must be mentioned that there is a low'er order of mendicants, char- 
latans and mad men who practise various forms of self-torture and infest river banks and 
streets in India and prey upon pilgrims and women. Some of them sit motionless for 
days and nights together and others lie down on beds of spikes. They never wash their 
bodies but smear them with ashes and dirt. Some devotees cut deep wounds in their 
flesh and others hang down from the branches of trees head downwards. Perpetual 
motion is the passion of some and they literally w’alk themselves to death. Disguised as 
the mendicants of Shiva there are also a large number of common rogues who cheat, rob 
and intimidate the credulous. 

Western travellers are often attracted by these devotees of Shiva and propagandists 
use them to give India a bad name and misrepresent Hindus to their countrymen. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


43 


Ganesha 

Next to Vishnu, Shiva and their consorts, Ganesha is the most widely worshipped 
deity in India. He is represented as having an elephant's head on a human trunk. His 
Vahan is the rat. Ganesha is the god of prudence and sagacity, and as the remover of 
obstacles is invoked by all Hindus at the beginning of every undertaking. "If a Hindu 
builds a house an image of Ganesha is previously propitiated, and set up on or near the 
spot ; if he writes a book Ganesha is saluted at its commencement, as he is also at the 
top of a letter ; beginning a journey, Ganesha is implored to protect him, and for the 
accommodation of travellers liis image is occasionally seen on the roadside, especially 

where two roads cross. It is common to see a figure of the god of prudence in 

or over banker's and other shops ; and upon the whole, there is perhaps no deity in the 
Hindu pantheon so often seen and addressed.” 

Although Ganesha is considered to be the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati, the 
Puranas attribute his origin to one or the other of the couple but not to both. It may be 
mentioned here that Shiva and Parvati together could not have progeny. The gods fearing 
that children bom of such union would be too terrible to live with requested Shiva not to 
beget any children. Shiva consented, but Parvati, coming to know of it, was enraged, 
declared that the wives of other gods also must remain barren like herself and cursed them 
accordingly. So rfone of the goddesses could bear children. The so-called sons and 
daughters of the gods are mind-bom children or those produced in some mysterious way 
unknown to mortals. 

According to an account in the Matsya Purana, Parvati produced Ganesha to cure 
her husband of his habit of surprising her while she was in the bath-tub. One day, she 
"took the oil and ointments used at the bath, and together with other impurities that came 
from her body formed them into the figure of a man to which she gave life by sprinkling 
it with the water of the Ganges.” She then kept him as the door-keeper of her bathing 
apartments. Presently Shiva came, and seeing Ganesha was considerably surprised. He, 
however, tried to force an entry and a quarrel broke out between the two in which Shiva 
cut off Ganesha’s head. When Parvati came out and saw that her son was killed, she gave 
herself up to lamentations, and to conciliate her, Shiva ordered the first head to be found 
of any living being to be brought to him. This happened to be an elephant’s, and Shiva 
clapped it on the trunk of Ganesha and gave him life. 

In another account oi the origin oi Ganesha we are toid that Parvati worshipped 
Vishnu for a son and Vishnu himself took the form of a babe and became her son. On 
hearing of the birth of the child the gods came to congratulate Parvati, and while all the 
gods looked at the wonderful babe, Sani (the planet Saturn) fixed his gaze on the ground. 
Parvati asked him why he did not look at her child, and Sani told her that he was under the 
curse of his wife who, in a moment of jealousy, had declared that whomsoever he gazed on 
should instantly perish. The proud mother, however, thought that her child was immune 
from all danger and in her elation, said that Sani could very well look at per child. Sani 
looked, and the head of the child severed from its body and flew to Vaikunta, the heaven 
of Vishnu, where it united itself to its original substance. _ Parvati cursed Sani and the 
unfortunate celestial became lame. She then began to wail, and to console her Vishnu 
mounted Garuda and set out in search of a head. He found an elephant sleeping by a 
river-bank and cutting off its head brought it to Parvati who clapped it to Ganesha's trunk, 
and Brahma gave him life. 

The elephant, it must be mentioned, is considered an animal of great prudence and 
sagacity, and Ganesha’s head is probably symbolic of these characteristics of the god. 



42 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


in possession of three castles which could only be destroyed by the deity who was able to 
overthrow them by a single arrow. The Asuras then waged war on the gods 'and no god 
was mighty enough to send the arrow that could demolish the castles. Indra, the king 
of the gods, consulted Shiva who said that by transferring half his strength to them the gods 
would be able to overcome their enemies. But all the gods together could not sustain 
half Shiva’s strength and hence they transferred half of their combined strength to Shiva, 
who now destroyed the Asuras and retained the gods' strength to himself. 

Shiva had on occasions assumed human form. The Mahabharcita says that he once 
appeared before Arjuna as a hunter in the manner described below. 

When the Pandava princes were wandering in the forests, Yudhishtira, knowing 
that the quarrel between them and the Kauravas would inevitably lead to war, asked his 
brother Arjuna to propitiate Shiva by penances and obtain from him a boon of invincibility. 
Arjuna repaired to the forests of the Himalayas and there practised austerities for many 
months, living on nothing but air. He raised so much energy by the severity of his 
penances that the worlds stood in danger of being burnt away. And Shiva decided to 
appear before his devotee and grant him the desired boon. 

One day while Arjuna was in the act of worshipping the Lingam of Mahadeva, a 
boar rushed at him. He seized his bow and arrows and shot the boar. Arjuna's shaft 
had scarcely struck the boar when another dart shot by an unknown person killed the 
beast. Presently a hunter appeared and began to revile Arjuna for having interfered with 
his sport. Arjuna, on the other hand, thought himself the aggrieved party and a quarrel 
broke out between the two ; they decided to settle it by an appeal to arms. First they 
fought with bows and arrows and Arjuna, renowned archer as he was, could not get the 
better of the hunter. Then they wrestled. In the midst of the combat Arjuna suddenly 
remembered that in his martial zeal he had forgotten to complete his worship, and taking 
the garland of flowers intended for worship, threw it on the Lingam of Shiva. But the gar- 
land fell on the neck of the hunter who was now metamorphosed into Shiva. Arjuna fell 
down before the god and adored him, and Shiva, pleased with the devotion and physical 
strength of Arjuna, granted him the desired boon and sent him back to his brother. 

Shiva is most widely worshipped in the form of the Lingam (phallus) and this cult 
will be dealt with in detail in Chapter VIII. The god is often worshipped together with 
his consort, sons and his Vahan Nandi (bull) but seldom alone. 

The Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva) are distinguished by the caste-mark of three 
horizontal lines on the forehead. While the vast majority of Shaivas worship the deity 
quietly and decently, it must be mentioned that there is a lower order of mendicants, char- 
latans and mad men who practise various forms of self-torture and infest river banks and 
streets in India and prey upon pilgrims and women. Some of them sit motionless for 
days and nights together and others lie down on beds of spikes. They never wash their 
bodies but smear them with ashes and dirt. Some devotees cut deep wounds in their 
flesh and others hang down from the branches of trees head downwards. Perpetual 
motion is the passion of some and they literally walk themselves to death. Disguised as 
the mendicants of Shiva there are also a large number of common rogues who cheat, rob 
and intimidate the credulous. 

Western travellers are often attracted by these devotees of Shiva and propagandists 
use them to give India a bad name and misrepresent Hindus to their countrymen. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


43 


Ganesha 

Next to Vishnu, Shiva and their consorts, Ganesha is the most widely worshipped 
deity in India. He is represented as having an elephant’s head on a human trunk. His 
Vahan is the rat. Ganesha is the god of prudence and sagacity, and as the remover of 
obstacles is invoked by all Hindus at the beginning of every undertaking. “If a Hindu 
builds a house an image of Ganesha is previously propitiated, and set up on or near the 
spot ; if he writes a book Ganesha is saluted at its commencement, as he is also at the 
top of a letter ; beginning a journey, Ganesha is implored to protect him, and for the 
accommodation of travellers his image is occasionally seen on the roadside, especially 

where two roads cross It is common to see a figure of the god of prudence in 

or over banker’s and other shops ; and upon the whole, there is perhaps no deity in the 
Hindu pantheon so often seen and addressed.” 

Although Ganesha is considered to be the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati, the 
Puraiias attribute his origin to one or the other of the couple but not to both. It may be 
mentioned here that Shiva and Parvati together could not have progeny. The gods fearing 
that children bom of such union would be too terrible to live with requested Shiva not to 
beget any children. Shiva consented, but Parvati, coming to know of it, was enraged, 
declared that the wives of other gods also must remain barren like herself and cursed them 
accordingly. So Hone of the goddesses could bear children. The so-called sons and 
daughters of the gods are mind-bom children or those produced in some mysterious way 
unknown to mortals. 

According to an account in the Malsya Pitrana, Parvati produced Ganesha to cure 
her husband of his habit of surprising her while she was in the bath-tub. One day, she 
"took the oil and ointments used at the bath, and together with other impurities that came 
from her body formed them into the figure of a man to which she gave life by sprinkling 
it with the water of the Ganges.” She then kept him as the door-keeper of her bathing 
apartments. Presently Shiva came, and seeing Ganesha was considerably surprised. He, 
however, tried to force an entry and a quarrel broke out between the two in which Shiva 
cut off Ganesha's head. Wien Parvati came out and saw that her son was killed, she gave 
herself up to lamentations, and to conciliate her, Shiva ordered the first head to be found 
of any living bring to be brought to him. This happened to be an elephant's, and Shiva 
clapped it on the trunk of Ganesha and gave him life. 

In another account of the origin of Ganesha we are told that Parvati worshipped 
Visimu for a son and Vishnu himself took the form of a babe and became her son. On 
hearing of the birth of the child the gods came to congratulate Parvati, and while all the 
gods looked at the wonderful babe, Sani (the planet Saturn) fixed his gaze on the ground. 
Parvati asked him why he did not look at her child, and Sani told her that he was under the 
curse of his wife who, in a moment of jealousy, had declared that whomsoever he gazed on 
should instantly perish. The proud mother, however, thought that her child was immune 
from all danger and in her elation, said that Sani could very well look at per child. Sani 
looked, and the head of the child severed from its body and flew to Vaikunta, the heaven 
of Visimu, where it united itself to its original substance. _ Parvati cursed Sani and the 
unfortunate celestial became lame. She then began to wail, and to console her Vishnu 
mounted Garuda and set out in search of a head. He found an elephant sleeping by a 
river-bank and cutting off its head brought it to Parvati who clapped it to Ganesha s trunk, 
and Brahma gave him life. ’ 

The elephant, it must be mentioned, is considered an animal of great prudence and 
sagacity, and Ganesha’s head is probably symbolic of these characteristics of the god. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


43 


Ganesha 

Next to Vishnu, Shiva and their consorts, Ganesha is the most widely worshipped 
deity in India. He is represented as having an elephant’s head on a human trunk. His 
Vahan is the rat. Ganesha is the god of prudence and sagacity, and as the remover of 
obstacles is invoked by all Hindus at the beginning of every undertaking. “If a Hindu 
builds a house an image of Ganesha is previously propitiated, and set up on or near the 
spot ; if he writes a book Ganesha is saluted at its commencement, as he is also at the 
top of a letter ; beginning a journey, Ganesha is implored to protect him, and for the 
accommodation of travellers his image is occasionally seen on the roadside, especially 

where two roads cross It is common to see a figure of the god of prudence in 

or over banker's and other shops; and upon the whole, there is perhaps no deity in the 
Hindu pantheon so often seen and addressed." 

Although Ganesha is considered to be the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati, the 
IPuranas attribute his origin to one or the other of the couple but not to both. It may be 
mentioned here that Shiva and Parvati together could not have progeny. The gods fearing 
that children bom of such union would be too terrible to live with requested Shiva not to 
beget any children. Shiva consented, but Parvati, coming to know of it, was enraged, 
declared that the wives of other gods also must remain barren like herself and cursed them 
accordingly. So hone of the goddesses could bear children. The so-called sons and 
daughters of the gods are mind-bom children or those produced in some mysterious way 
unknown to mortals. 

. According to an account in the Malsya Parana, Parvati produced Ganesha to cure 
her husband of his habit of surprising her while she was in the bath-tub. One day, she 
"took the oil and ointments used at the bath, and together with other impurities that came 
from her body formed them into the figure of a man to whicli she gave life by sprinkling 
it with the water of the Ganges.” She then kept him as the door-keeper of her bathing 
apartments. Presently Shiva came, and seeing Ganesha was considerably surprised. He, 
however, tried to force an entry and a quarrel broke out between the two in which Shiva 
cut off Ganesha's head. When Parvati came out and saw that her son was killed, she gave 
herself up to lamentations, and to conciliate her, Shiva ordered the first head to be found 
of any living being to be brought to him. This happened to be an elephant’s, and Shiva 
clapped it on the trunk of Ganesha and gave him life. 

In another account of the origin of Ganesha we are told that Parvati worshipped 
Vislinu for a son and Vishnu himself took the form of a babe and became lier son. On 
hearing of the birth of the child the gods came to congratulate Parvati, and while all the 
gods looked at the wonderful babe, Sani (the planet Saturn) fixed his gaze on the ground. 
Parvati asked him why he did not look at her child, and Sani told her that he was under the 
curse of his wife who, in a moment of jealousy, had declared that whomsoever he gazed on 
should instantly perish. The proud mother, however, thought that her child was immune 
from all danger and in her elation, said that Sani could very well look at per child. Sani 
looked, and the head of the child severed from its body and flew to Vaikunta, the heaven 
of Vishnu, where it united itself to its original substance. Parvati cursed Sani and the 
unfortunate celestial became lame. She then began to wail, and to console her Vishnu 
mounted Garuda and set out in search of a head. He found an elephant sleeping by a 
river-bank and cutting off its head brought it to Parvati who clapped it to Ganesha s trunk, 
and Brahma gave him life. 

The elephant, it must be mentioned, is considered an animal of great prudence and 
sagacity, and Ganesha’s head is probably symbolic of these characteristics of the god. 



44 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


In the Varciha Pitraita Shiva alone is said to have produced Ganesha. "The 
immortals and holy sages observing that no difficulty occurred in accomplishing good or 
evil deeds which they and others commenced, consulted together respecting the means by 
which obstacles might be opposed to the commission of bad actions, and repaired to Shiva 
for counsel to whom they said ; ‘0 Mahadeva I God of gods, thrcc-eycd bearer of the 
trident, it is thou alone who canst create a being capable o! opposing obstacles to the 
commission of improper acts.' Hearing these words Shiva looked at Parvati, and whilst 
thinking how he could effect the wishes of the gods, from the splendour of his countenance 
there sprang up into existence a youth shedding radiance around, endowed with the 
qualities of Shiva, and evidently another Rudra, and captivating by his beauty the female 
inhabitants of heaven. 

"Uma (Parvati) seeing his beauty was excited with jealousy, and in her anger 
pronounced this curse ; 'Thou shall not offend my sight with the form of a beautiful youth ; 
therefore assume an elephant's head and a large belly, and thus shall all thy beauties vanish.' 
Shiva then addressed his son saying : ‘Thy name shall be Ganesha, and the son of Shiva ; 
thou shalt be chief of the Vinayakas and the Ganas ; success and disappointment shall 
spring from thee ; and great shall be thine influence among the gods, and in sacrifices 
and all affairs. Therefore shall thou be worshipped and invoked the first on all occasions; 
the object and prayers of him who omits to do so shall fail.’ ”* 

In the Skanda Purana yet another account of the origin of Ganesha is given. "Dur- 
ing the twilight that intervened between the Dwapara and Kali Yugas, women, barbarians 
and Sudras and other workers of sin” obtained entrance to heaven by visiting the shrine 
of Somnath, and heaven became overcrowded and hells were without inhabitants. In 
this predicament Ind“a and other gods appealed to Shiva for help who asked them to 
address their complaints to Parvati. Parvati was propitiated and she rubbed her body 
and 'produced a wondrous being with four arms and an elephant's head’ who created 
obstacles to men going to heaven by diverting their longing for pilgrimages (particularly to 
Somnath) to desire for the acquisition of wealth. 

The story was probably invented by some clever priest of Somnath to attract pilgrims 
to the shrine ! 

Ganesha has only one tusk ; the other was knocked off by Parasurama, THs 
gentleman one day visited Mount Kailas, the abode of Shiva. At the gate he was met by 
Ganesha who told him that his father was asleep and could not see visitors. Parasurama, 
however, was in a hurry, wanted immediate audience and asked Ganesha to go and wake 
up Shiva. Ganesha was of opinion that Parasurama was not a visitor of such great 
importance that he could disturb his father’s sleep, and said so. The two started an argu- 
ment which led to blows. Ganesha caught Parasurama in his trunk and threw him 
violently to the ground. Parasurama picked himself up and threw Iris axe on Ganesha 
which knocked oft one of his tusks. 

Now Parvati came on the scene and was about to curse Parasurama when the gods 
interceded on his. behalf, and Brahma promised her that, though deprived of one of his 
tusks, her son should be worshipped by the other gods. 

Ganesha is considered very skilled in sacred sciences, and is a good scribe besides. 
It is said that Vyasa dictated the Mahabharaia to him and'he took it down. Before agree- 
ing to be the scribe of Vyasa, Ganesha, however, told the poet that he had no time to waste 
but should be kept fully engaged. Vyasa, on the other hand, stipulated that the scribe 

♦ Hindu Mythology, W. J. Wilkins.- 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


45 

should take down the dictation intelligently. And it is said that while Ganesha pondered 
over the meaning of the stanza he wrote, Vyasa composed the next one ; thus the whole 
work was written. 

It: is also related that Ganesha won his wives Siddhi and Buddhi by his learning 
and logical talents. Both Ganesha and his younger brother Kartikeya fell in love with 
the ladies and it was agreed between them that they should run a race round the world 
and the winner obtain the ladies as the prize. Ganesha sat at home, and when Kartikeya 
returned from his weary travels, proved to him, by quoting extensively from sacred literature 
relating to geograph}’', that he (Ganesha) had done the world tour and returned much 
earlier ; and then he married the ladies. The fraud was discovered later when nothing 
could be done. 

Ganesha is blessed with a good appetite and is said to be pleased with offerings of 
piles of edible stuff, particularly fruits. 

Kartikeya 

Kartikeya is the god of war and the generalissimo of the celestial armies. Shiva who 
used to lead the celestial hosts gave up his military career and took to the practice of auste- 
rities, (page 54) and the gods, without a general, were defeated by the Asuras and driven 
out of their Kingdom. Indra became a wanderer in the forests, and one day while he 
was meditating on how to regain his kingdom he heard the cry of a damsel in distress. He 
proceeded to the spot wherefrom the voice came, and there saw the demon Kcsin trying 
to do violence on a beautiful girl. On seeing Indra, Kesin fled and the girl, whose name 
was Devasena (army of the gods), asked Indra to find a husband for her. Indra took 
her to Brahma and requested him to provide a martial husband for her who should also 
lead the celestial hosts. Brahma agreed and decided that Agni should have a son by 
the waters of the Ganges. 

At that time, the seven great Rishis were performing a sacrifice, and while Agni (the 
god of fire) issued forth from the sacrificial fire, he saw the wives of the Rishis and fell in 
love with all of them. But as they were married, respectable women, Agni kept his desire 
to himself and repaired to a forest to cool his passion. There, Swaha, daughter of Daksha, 
saw him and fell in love with him, but he loved her not. Swaha, by her divine power, 
knew that Agni was in tove with, the wives of the Rishis and disguising herself as the wife 
of one of the Rishis approached Agni. The virtuous god hesitated for some time, but 
temptation proving too strong he yielded at last. Swaha departed but came again in the 
guise of another Rishi's wife. Thus she managed to visit him six times and get six “germs 
of Agni. These were deposited in a golden reservoir "which being worshipped by the 
Rishis generated a son ; Kumara or Kartikeya was bom with six heads, a double number 
of ears, twelve eyes, arms and feet, one neck and one belly.” When he came of age he 
married Devasena and regained the celestial kingdom from the Asuras. 

The Shiva Purana gives a different account of Kartikeya’s birth. In this work it is 
said an Asura named Taraka by severe austerities forced Brahma to grant him a boon by 
which he could only be killed by a son of Shiva. This was the time when Shiva w'as living 
without a spouse, Sati have destroyed herself in Daksha's sacrificial fire. Taraka was 
well aware of Shiva's ascetic leanings and was over-confident that the god would not 
marry again. So, after receiving the boon from Brahma "he became so arrogant that 
Indra W’as forced to yield to him the white-headed horse Uchchaisravas ; Kubera gave up 
his thousand sea-horses ; the Rishis were compelled to resign the cow Kamadhenu that 



46 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS Of INDIA 


yielded everything that could be wished ; the sun in dread gave no heat and the moon in 
terror remained always full ; the wind blew as Taraka dictated." 

So the tyrannical Asura had to be destroyed and for this purpose it was necessary 
to make Shiva marry. Sati was reborn as Uma, the daughter of the Himalayas, and began 
to practise devotions to propitiate Shiva and marry him. But this god sat immersed in 
meditation and was insensible to the supplications of the devotee. Indra, becoming des- 
perate, asked Kama, the god of love, to proceed to Kailas and by his art raise sexual desire 
in Shiva. Kama reluctantly undertook the mission as it was pretty certain that anyone 
who disturbed the Great God in his meditation would not get away with it. He, however, 
proceeded with his wife Rati (passion) and friend Vasantam (spring) to Kailas, where he 
saw the Great God seated on a tiger skin with his eyes closed, hands resting on the thighs, 
lost in meditation, calm and majestic as an ocean without a ripple on its surface. Wind 
itself dared not disturb the god, and the leaves of the trees remained still. There was 
perfect silence and quiet all around and the courage of the god of love failed him. At 
that moment Uma came in the neighbourhood and, while gathering flowers, she showed an 
excellent profile to Mahadeva, and Kama, emboldened by her beauty, shot his arrow laden 
with love. The shaft struck. Mahadeva and he woke up from his Samadhi (meditation) 
'like a sea suddenly troubled by a storm'. He looked for the cause of the disturbance of 
his Samadhi and saw the god of love slinking away with his bow and arrows. Shiva in 
his wrath opened his third eye and burnt Kama to ashes. 

The shaft of Kama had no other effect than that of disturbing Shiva, and Uma had 
to practise severe austerities for years before she was married to him. Even after the 
marriage the couple had no progeny, and the gods in their distress sent Agni to Mahadeva 
as their spokesman. Agni reached Kailas at an opportune moment when Shiva had just 
left his wife. Assuming the shape of a dove he managed to get a "germ" of Mahadeva 
and with it proceeded to Indra. But unable to support "the germ" he dropped it in the 
Ganges "on the banks of which river arose a boy, beautiful as the moon and bright as the 
sun, who was called Agnibhuva, Skanda and Kartikeya." 

"It happened that six daughters (the Pleiads) of as many Rajahs, coming to bathe, 
saw the boy and each called him her son, and offering the breast, the child assumed to 
himself six mouths and received nurture from each ; whence he is called Shashtimatriya 
(having six mothers). But in fact, the child had no mother for he came from his father 
alone." 

In course of time a conflict ensued between Kartikeya and Taraka in which the 
demon was slain. 

Kartikeya is widely worshipped, particularly in South India, where he is better 
known as Subrahmanya. In Maharashtra, Kartikeya is usually considered a misogynist 
and a bachelor (hence his name Kumara), and women are not allowed to worship at his 
shrines ; in fact the unlucky woman who visits Kartikeya 's shrine is feared to lose her 
husband and suffer widowhood in seven successive rebirths. In other regions, he is not, 
however, considered celibate and is even worshipped with his consorts ; as already noticed 
he is said to have married Devasena and wooed Siddhi and Buddhi. Some accounts even 
make him the husband of several wives. Kartikeya's Vahan is the peacock. 

Indka 

In Vedic times Indra was the most important deity of the pantheon. More hymns 
are addressed to him in the Rig Veda than to any other single deity. The following extracts 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


47 


from an invocation in the Rig Veda will give the reader a fair idea of the position he occu- 
pied in the Vedic Pantheon : 

"Thou hast grasped in thine arms the iron thunderbolt ; thou hast placed the sun 
in the sky to be viewed (dwelling) on further side of this atmospheric world, deriving thy 
power from thyself, daring in spirit ; thou for our advantage, hast made the earth the 
counterpart of thy energy ; encompassing the waters and the sky thou readiest up to 
heaven. Thou art the counterpart of the earth, the lord of the lofty sky, with its exalted 
heroes. Thou hast filled the whole atmosphere with thy greatness. Truly there is none 
other like unto thee. Whose vastness neither heaven and earth have equalled, nor the 
rivers of the atmosphere have attained its limit, nor when, in his exhilaration, he fought 
against the appropriator of the rain ; thou alone hast made everything else in due succes- 
sion. 


"I declare the mighty deeds of this mighty one. At the Trikadruka festival Indra 
drank of the Soma, and in its exhilaration he slew Ahi. He propped up the vast sky in 
empty space ; he hath filled the two worlds and the atmosphere ; he hath upheld the 
earth, and stretched it out. Indra has done these things in the exhilaration of the Sonia. 
He hath meted out with his measure the eastern regions like a house ; with his thunder- 
bolt he has opened up the sources of the rivers. 

“Let us worship, with reverence, the mighty Indra, the powerful, the exalted, the 
undecaying, the youthful. The beloved worlds (heaven and earth) have not measured 
nor do they (now) measure the greatness of this adorable being. Many are the excellent 
works which Indra has done ; not all the gods are able to frustrate the counsels of him, 
who established the earth, and this sky, and wonder-working, produced the sun and the 
dawn. O innoxious god, thy greatness has been veritable since that time, when as soon as 
thou wast born, thou didst drink the Soma. Neither the heavens nor the days, nor the 
months, nor the season can resist the energy of thee (who art) mighty.” 

In the Vedas, Indra is often spoken of as the god of rain and lightning and his weapon 
as the thunderbolt with which he slew the demon of drought and caused the clouds to 
release their waters. 

In the Furanas Indra is given a place subordinate to that of the members of the 
Trinity and their consorts and sons, but as the king of the celestials he occupies a unique 
position in the pantheon. Indra, in the Plenums, is not the name of a deity but a title for 
the king of the gods. The life of one Indra is said to be a hundred divine years (one divine 
year is equivalent to three hundred and sixty earth years) after which period a god or even 
a meritorious mortal is raised to the throne. The surest way for anyone to become Indra 
is to perform one hundred sacrifices on the completion of which the reigning Indra has to 
abdicate. The Puraiias relate that some mortals tried to perform these sacrifices and Indra 
frustrated their attempts by stealing the victims of the sacrifices. By austerities also 
mortals can attain to the position of Indra, and it is said that,, w'henever mortals practise 
austerities the reigning Indra sends the voluptuous dancers of his court to distract them. 

Indra, though king of the gods, is not invincible. We have already seen that Bali 
conquered Indra by sacrifices and drove out the celestials from their kingdom. In the 
Ramayana it is related that Indra) it, Ravana’s son, overcame Indra in battle and took him 
prisoner to Lanka where he served Ravana as a menial. 

Indra is the regent of the east. He rides on the white elephant Airavatam and 
possesses the wonderful horse Uchchaisravas both of which rose out of the milk ocean 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


4 S 

when it was churned for ambrosia. His weapon Vajra (lightning) is deadly, but the rain- 
bow is also considered the visible symbol of a mighty bow he possesses. The name of 
the reigning Indra is Purandara and he has one thousand eyes. The author of the Rama- 
yana (who, by the way, seems to take a peculiar pleasure in narrating the many tales 
of Indra’s weaknesses) relates how he came to possess so many eyes. 

Gautama, Indra’s Guru (teacher), had a young and pretty wife named Ahalya, and 
Indra fell in love with her. One day while the sage was out, Indra stole into his house 
and addressed Ahalya in terms of passionate love. The lady was willing. But before any 
harm could be done Gautama came home and, seeing the two together, cursed Indra who 
became covered with a thousand marks of disgrace. Indra repented and implored his 
Guru to forgive him and the good sage changed the thousand marks of disgrace into as 
many eyes. 

This leniency, however, was lost upon Indra. The persevering deity waited for 
another opportunity and, one occurring, he again sneaked into his Guru's house. Once 
again Gautama came and saw the two together, but this time too late ; the mischief had 
been. done. The angry sage cursed Ahalya and she became a stone. He turned Indra 
into an eunuch. The gods, however, interceded and Indra, after the performance of a 
small sacrifice, was restored to manhood. Gautama also declared that Ahalya would 
regain her lost state when Vishnu should become incarnate as Ramachandra. It is said 
in the Ramayana that Rama, while wandering in the forests of Dandaka, touched Ahalya 
with his feet and restored her to her former state. 

The heaven of Indra is called Amaravati where he holds court with his wife Indrani. 
All delights and pleasures are found there. Pious mortals go to the heaven of Indra to 
enjoy the reward of their good actions. The aim of life is liberation ; but those who have 
not done sufficient good deeds to merit it are sent to Indra's heaven, from where, after 
some time, they are again sent to this earth to be reborn according to their Karma. 

Agni 

Agni is the god of fire. If we are to judge the importance of a Vedic deity by the 
number of hymns addressed to him, he was, in Vcdic times, second in importance only 
to Indra. In the Puranas he occupies a subordinate position, but because of the inherent 
importance of fire in all Hindu ceremonials and its utility in daily life, Agni to this day is 
held in great veneration by all classes of Hindus. Agni is also identified with Rudra, Shiva, 
and Surya (the sun). 

“Agni is a lord, protector, king of men. He is the lord of the house, dwelling in 
every abode. He is guest in every home ; he despises no man, he lives in every family. 
He is therefore considered as a mediator between gods and men, and as a witness of their 
actions ; hence to the present day he is worshipped, and liis blessing sought on all solemn 
occasions, as at marriage, death, etc. In these old hymns Agni is spoken of as dwelling 
in the two pieces of wood, which being rubbed together produce fire ; and it is noticed as 
a remarkable thing that a living being should spring out of dry (dead) wood. Strange to 
say, says the poet, the child as soon as he is bom begins with unnatural voracity to con- 
sume his parents. Wonderful is his growth seeing that he is bom of a mother who cannot 
nourish him ; hut he is nourished by the oblations of clarified butter which are poured 
into his mouth and which he consumes.” 

It difficult to get a coherent account of the parentage of Agni although in several 
places his parents are mentioned. In one place he is spoken of as the son of Brahma, 



PLATE XXI 







PLATE XXIII 



58 


DEVTH OF BAL\RAM\ 

{From Futures of Indian Myths & legends) 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


49 


elsewhere as the offspring of Dyaus (Heaven) and Prithvr (Earth). According to a third 
account he is the son of Kasyapa and Aditi, while a fourth one tells us that he is the son 
of Angiras, king of the Pitris (fathers of mankind). 

The reason why Agni consumes everything yet remains pure is given in the 
Mahabharata. The sage Bhrigu, it is said, once carried away a woman betrothed to an 
Asura, and this person in his search for his beloved went to Agni and asked him where 
she was, as Agni, in his nature of fire, had access to all places. Agni with his characteristic 
truthfulness told him where she was and the Asura brought back his beloved. Bhrigu 
came to know of Agni’s part in the affair and cursed him to eat everything pure and impure. 
Agni remonstrated with him and said that jn speaking the truth he only did what was be- 
coming of a god and that the whole attitude of Bhrigu in the affair was anything but proper. 
Bhrigu was convinced and added a blessing to the curse ; accordingly, though Agni was 
to eat everything, he could still remain pure. Hence even impure things when consumed 
by fire become pure. 

Dr. Muir in the following verses explains the nature and function of the deity : 


“Great Agni, though thine essence be but 
one, 

Thy forms are three ; as fire thou blazest 
here, 

As lightning flashest in the atmosphere, 

In heaven thou flamest as the golden sun. 

It was in heaven thou hadst thy primal birth; 
By art of sage skilled in sacred lore 
Thou wast drawn down to human earths 
of yore, 

And thou abidest a denizen of earth. 

Sprung from the mystic pair, by priestly 
hands 

In wedlock joined, forth flashes Agni bright; 
But oh 1 ye heavens and earth, I tell you 
right. 

The unnatural child devours the parent 
brands. 

But Agni is a god ; we must not deem 
That he can err or dare to comprehend 
His acts which far our reason’s grasp 
transcend ; 

He best can judge what deeds a god 
beseem. 

And yet this orphaned god himself survives : 
Although his hapless mother soon expires, 
And cannot nurse the babe as babe requires, 
Great Agni, wondrous infant, grows and 
thrives. 


Smoke-bannered Agni, god with crackling 
voice 

And flaming hair, when thou dost pierce 
the gloom 

At early dawn, and all the world illume. 
Both heaven and earth and gods and men 
rejoice. 

In every home thou art a welcome guest, 
The household tutelary lord, a son, 

A father, mother, brother all in one, 

A friend by whom thy faithful friends are 
blest. 

A swift-winged messenger, thou callest 
down 

From heaven to crowd our hearts the race 
divine, 

To taste our food, our hymns to hear 
benign, 

And all our fondest aspiration crown. 

Thou, Agni, art our priest : divinely vase, 

In holy science versed, thy skill detects 
The faults that mar our rites, mistakes 
corrects. 

And all our acts completes and sanctifies. 

Thou art the cord that stretches to the skies, 
The bridge that spans the chasm, profound 
and vast, 

Dividing earth from heaven o’er which at 
last, 

The good shall safely pass to Paradise. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


50 

Thou leveUest all thou touchest ; forests 
vast 

Thou shear’st, like beards which barber’s 
razor shaves. 

Thy wind-driven flames roar loud as ocean’s 
waves, 

And all thy track is black when thou hast 
past. 

But though great, Agni not dost always wear 

That direful form ; thou rather lov’st to 
shine 

Upon our hearts, with milder flame benign. 

And cheer the home where thou art nursed 
with care. 

Though I no cow possess and have no 
store 

Of butter, nor an axe fresh wood to cleave. 

Thou gracious god 'with my poor gift 
receive 

These few dry sticks I bring — I have no 
more. 


Preserve us lord : thy faithful servants 

save 

From all the ills by which our bliss is 
marred ; 

Tower like an iron wall our homes to 
guard, 

And all the boons bestow our hearts can 
crave. 


And when away our brief existence wanes, 
When at length we our earthly homes must 
quit, 

And our freed souls to worlds unknown 
shall flit, 

Do thou gently with our cold remains. 


And then thy gracious form assuming guide 
Our unborn part across the dark abyss 
Aloft to realms serene of light and bliss 
Where righteous men among the gods 
abide.” 


In art Agni is represented as a red man with three flaming heads, as many legs and 
seven arms, wearing a garland of fruits. He rides on a ram. 

Vakuna 

In Vedic times Varuna occupied an important position in the pantheon and was 
particularly worshipped for his omniscience. The following hymn describes the character 
of the deity : 


The mighty Lord on high, our deeds, as if at' hand espies ; 

The gods know all men do, though men would fain their deeds disguise. 
Whoever stands, whoever moves, or steals from place to place, 

Or hides him in his secret cell, — the gods his movements trace. 
Wherever two together plot, and deem they are alone. 

King Varuna is there, a third and all their schemes are known. 

This earth is his, to him belong those vast and boundless skies ; 

Both seas within him rest, and yet in that small pool he lies. 

Whoever far beyond the sky should think his way to wing. 

He could not there elude the grasp of Varuna the king. 

His spies descending from the skies glide all this world around. 

Their thousand eyes all-scanning sweep to earth’s remotest bound. 
Whatever exists in heaven and earth, whate’r beyond the skies, 

Before the eyes of Varuna, the king, unfolded lies. 

The ceaseless winkings all he counts of every mortal’s eyes : 

He wields this universal frame, as gamester throws his dice. 

Those knotted nooses which thou fling’st O god, the bad to snare. 

All liars let them overtake, but all the truthful spare. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


51 


Later, Vanina was deprived of his omniscient powers and in the Pur anas he appears 
as the god of the oceans. He is said to be in possession of innumerable horses. He also 
fell from the high moral plane he occupied in the Vedas. It is said that both Varuna and 
Surya (sun) fell in love with the dancer Urvasi and jointly produced on her Agastya who 
in spite of this licentious heredity, became celebrated for his ascetic virtues. 

Varuna's Vahan is a monster fish called Makara. It has the head of a deer, legs 
of an antelope and the body and tail of a fish. Varuna is not worshipped now but is propi- 
tiated before voyages. Fishermen also invoke him before venturing out into the sea. All 
Hindus, however, when they happen to behold the sea fold their hands and mutter prayers 
to Varuna. 

Varuna is the regent of the west. 


Yama 

Yama occupies in Hindu mythology the position Pluto does in Greek mythology. 
He is the god of death and holds charge of the several hells mentioned in the Puranas. In 
this destructive capacity he is said to be a deputy of Shiva. He rides on a buffalo, attended 
by two dogs each with four eyes. The dogs assist him in dragging unwilling souls into 
hell. 

Yama has a clerk named Chitragupta who keeps record of the good and bad actions 
of mortals. When a person dies he is conducted to Yama who calls upon Chitragupta 
to read out the account of his deeds. This is read out and a balance struck ; and if the 
balance happens to go against him he is taken to hell where, under the supervision of Yama, 
he is tortured. 

In the Vedas, Yama is said to be the first mortal who died and went to heaven of 
which he became the monarch. Nowhere in these books is he said to be the king of the 
nether regions. But then in Vedic times the conception of hell had not fully developed. 

In the Bhavishya Ptirana there is an account of Yama's marriage with a mortal 
woman. He fell in love with Vijaya, the pretty daughter of a Brahmin, married her and 
took her to Yamapuri, his abode. Here he told her not to enter the southern regions of 
his spacious palace. For some time Vijaya remained obedient, but afterwards curiosity 
overpowered her and ‘thinking that Yama must have another wife' there she entered the 
forbidden region, and there saw hell and souls in torment ; and among the tormented 
souls was her mother. She also met Yama there and implored him to release her mother. 
Yama told her that the release could only be obtained by some of her relatives performing 
a sacrifice. The sacrifice was performed and Yama’s mother-in-law was released. 

Yama is the regent of the south and hence this direction is considered inauspicious 
by the Hindus. Death is euphemistically referred to as "going south”. 

For other myths connected with Yama, please see Chapter VII. 

Kubera 

Kubera is the god of wealth. But he is better known for his acquisitive tendencies 
than for generosity, and hence Hindus desirous of obtaining wealth do not worship him. 
He does not seem to care for praises or oblations but is content with his own prosperity 
and splendour. His city Alaka is considered to be the wealthiest in the celestial regions. 

It is said in the Puranas that he was once in possession of Lanka, also the richest 
city on earth. He came to possess it in the following manner : "Brahma had a mental 



52 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS 6F INDIA 


son named Pulastya, who again had a mental son named Vaisravana (Kubera). The latter 
deserted his father and went to his grandfather Brahma who, as a reward, made him im- 
mortal and appointed him the god of riches with Lanka for his capital and the car Push- 
paka for his vehicle.’' 

But he could not retain Lanka for long. This city had been expressly built for the 
Rakshasas by Viswakarma, and its citizens had deserted it for fear of Vishnu, and it was the 
city thus deserted that Kubera occupied. Sumala, a Rakshasa, determined to regain Lanka 
and drive off Kubera, sent his daughter to woo Kub era’s father. She managed to marry 
him and had four sons by him of whom Ravana was the eldest. Ravana performed aus- 
terities and received a boon of invincibility from Shiva. After this he drove off his half- 
brother Kubera from Lanka and seized his car Pushpaka. This was the car in which 
Ravana carried off Sita. It is related in the Ramayana that sometime after the conquest 
of Lanka, Rama restored the car to its original owner. 

Kubera is the regent of the north. Thus Kubera completes the list of the regents 
of the cardinal points. There are also regents for the other four points of the heavens, 
but they arc differently mentioned. It is, however, popularly believed that Agni rules the 
south-east ; Nirrita (a Vcdic deity of minor importance), south-west ; Vayu (the god of 
wind), north-west \ and Isani (a form of Shiva), north-east. Brahma guards the Zenith 
and the serpent Shesha, the Nadir. 

The RIaruts 

Rlaruts arc storm deities who had great importance in Vedic times. In one hymn 
of the Rig Veda they are said to be one hundred and eighty in number, in another twenty- 
seven. The Puranas speak of them as forty-nine. 

In the Ramayana it is related that Diti, mother of the Asuras, sorrowed on the death 
of her sons at the hands of the celestials, and asked her husband Kasyapa for a boon bv 
which she could beget a child who should destroy Indra, king of the gods. Kasyapa granted 
the boon and Diti conceived. But Indra, coming to know of it, stole to her apartments 
and "treated her in a very indelicate and barbarous manner, dividing with his tremendous 
weapon, Vajra, the foetus, with which she was quick, into forty-nine pieces ; which at the 
request of the afflicted Diti, were transformed by Indra into the Rlaruts or winds." 

The leader of the Rlaruts or rather the essence of the different aspects of 'riml 
is called Rlarut, Vayu or Pavan, who is often mentioned in the Puranas as the god of physical 
strength. 

Aswins 

These Vedic deities arc twins, the personification, according to some accounts, 
of Night and Day. They are not, however, mimical to each other but are very intimate, 
and in Suxya (the daughter of the Sun) have a common wife. They won her in a chariot 
race in which they defeated the other gods. 

In the Puranas Aswins are spoken of as the physicians of the celestials. 

Twashtr 

He is the celestial architect, the Vulcan of the Hindus. He is generally commis- 
sioned by the gods to build their palaces and lay out their gardens. At times he also works 
for the enemies of the gods. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 53 

In some hymns of the Vedas he is spoken of as the creator of the universe. In the 
Puranas he is known as Viswakarma and is little more than a skilled artisan. 

PUSBAN 

The Aryans, while they were nomads, worshipped Pushan, the god of travellers, 
who protected them from highwaymen and prevented their cattle from straying ; many 
hymns in the Vedas are addressed to him. But when they settled down, they forgot Pushan, 
and one rarely comes across his name in the Puranas. He was, however, present in Daksha’s 
sacrifice and fought on the side of Daksha ; Shiva knocked off his teeth, and whenever 
the Puranas mention Pushan 's name he is described as a toothless old god struggling for 
speech. 

The above account of the gods is not complete. Many minor gods and some im- 
portant ones like Surya (sun). Soma (moon), Kama, Hanuman, etc., remain to be men- 
tioned. These will receive our attention in proper places ; in the next chapter we will 
give some thought to the goddesses. 



CHAPTER IV 


THE HINDU PANTHEON — {Concluded) 

GODDESSES 

W HILE to the layman the male appears the more energetic of the sexes, to the mystic 
female stands for the active principle, particularly when ruthless action is indi- 
cated. In Greek mythology the Furies, ScyUa and Charybdis are well-known 
for their destructive propensities. Pallas among the Greeks and Isis among the Egyptians 
are noted for their active virtues. The Hindus personify the energy of a god and speak 
of it as his wife (Shakti). While, according to higher conceptions, the Shakti of a god is 
not separate from himself, for the better understanding of the active aspect of the deity 
she is brought within the compass of human perceptive capacity and endowed with an 
entity of her own. 

It may be mentioned that mother cults and myths, fairly universal among mankind, 
arc of very ancient origin and most of them can be traced to the matriarchal phase of social 
development when women held a better position in society than men. 

The Consort of Shiva 

In the consort of Shiva we have a representation of woman in her various aspects. 
In the preceding chapter we have noticed her in her character of Sati, the virtuous woman 
and devoted wife, who, to vindicate her husband’s honour, immolated herself in fire. In 
the medieval times many a devoted Hindu widow, as is well known, immolated herself 
in the funeral pyre of her husband. 

Sati was reborn as Uma (Parvati), daughter of Himavan (the Himalayas) and Mena. 
She was exceedingly beautiful and was over-confident of the affection of her husband who 
had so madly mourned her death. Hence she gave herself up to singing and dancing, spent 
her time in decorating her person with flowers and ornaments, and hoped Shiva would 
come to woo her in due time. But in this she was disappointed. The Great God sat on 
Mount Kailas immersed in meditation. He had lost all desire for the company of women 
and had taken delight in asceticism. When Uma saw that her beauty could not attract 
Shiva she hoped to win his favour by devotion, and began to worship his image assiduously. 
In this too she failed ; Shiva sat insensible to all the. supplications of the devotee. She 
then gave up the world, became contemptuous of physical beauty and began to practise 
severe penances and starve her body. She lived on air, remained in ice-cold water for 
days and nights together, and did many other things besides. One day, while she wets 
standing on one leg with uplifted arm, a Brahmin of short stature appeared before her and 
asked her why she was thus torturing her lovely body. Uma told him that she was in I° ve 
with Shiva and wanted to marry him. The Brahmin laughed and asked her if she knew 
that Shiva was an ugly, homeless mendicant of dirty habits, a haunter of cemeteries and 
an ill-tempered old god besides. Uma said she knew all this and more, and defended 
the greatness of Shiva. But she was no match for the Brahmin who described Shiva s 
habits so horribly that Uma could not bear to hear such blasphemy any longer : and sne 
closed her cars with her hands and shouted at the Brahmin. On this the Brahmin stood 
before her as Shiva, smiling. Uma fell down and worshipped him. He took her by the 
hand, told her that it was no longer necessary for her to practise austerities and sent her 
back to her father ; Shiva went to Himavan and married Uma in accordance with the 
prescribed rites. 

34 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


55 


Uma lived -with her husband on Kailas. She is often described in the Puranas as 
an ideal housewife cheering Shiva with her delightful company and sweet conversation. 
But there were also domestic quarrels between them. One day, for instance, while Shiva 
was reading and explaining to his wife some abstruse philosophic point, Uma felt sleep}'. 
When the Great God asked for her approval of his interpretation of the text, he happened 
to look at her and saw her nodding. He rebuked her for being inattentive. But Uma 
maintained she was really attentive and had closed her eyes to contemplate the meaning 
of his words the better, upon which Shiva asked her to repeat the last words lie uttered. 
Poor Parvati could not, and was thus caught red-handed. The angry god cursed his wife 
to become a fisherwoman. Immediately Parvati fell from Kailas to the earth as a fisher- 
maid. 


Shiva, determined to forget so indifferent a wife, assumed his characteristic Yogic 
pose and began to practise concentration. But he found it difficult to meditate, and his 
thoughts wandered after Parvati. He made some more attempts at concentration but 
failed. At last the thonght of Parvati became tormenting to him and he decided to regain 
his lost wife. He asked his servant Nandi to become a shark and break the nets of the 
fishermen among whom Parvati lived. 

Parvati who fell on the seashore as a fisher-maid was picked up by the cliicf of fishers 
and brought up as his daughter. She was exceedingly beautiful and, when she came of 
age, all the young fishermen of the village wished to marry her. The depradations of 
Nandi, in the meantime, had become quite intolerable and the worried chief declared that 
Ills daughter would be given in marriage to the person who would catch the shark. Shiva 
was only waiting for this opportunity. He assumed the form of a fisherman and easily 
enough caught the shark. And then he married Parvati, and with her went back to Kailas. 

There were also other causes of dispute between Shiva and Parvati as it very often 
happened that Shiva wanted to curse a person whom his wife wanted to bless. On the 
other hand, the felicity of their domestic life is eulogized at great length in many of the 
Puranas. All told, the married life of Shiva and Parvati is a faithful representation of the 
average human family. Parvati is a fond mother, a prudent though somewhat assertive 
wife, and, like all women, wise and childish at once. 

Now we come to the terror aspect of woman personified as Shiva's consort. In 
this character she is known by various names of which the most popular is Durga. Al- 
though in essence she is said to be the energy of Shiva, the Puranas observe that the Durga 
form of her was produced “from the radiant flames that issued from the mouths of Brahma, 
Vishnu and Shiva as well as from the mouths of other principal deities," for the destruction 
of Mahisha (buffalo-demon), an Asura who had conquered the celestial kingdom and driven 
out the gods from there. It is said she appeared before the gods as “a female of celestial 
beauty with ten arms into which the gods delivered their weapons, the emblem of their 
powers.” On this occasion she received “from Vishnu the discus ; from Shiva, the trident ; 
from Varuna, the conch or shell ; from Agni, a flaming dart ; from Vayu, a bow ; from 
Surya, a quiver and arrow ; from Yama, an iron rod ; from Brahma, a bared-roll ; from 
Indra,’ a thunderbolt ; from Kubera, a club ; from Viswakarma, a battle-axe ; from Sa- 
inudra, precious stones and offensive weapons ; from the milky ocean, a necklace of pearls ; 
from Mount Himalaj’as, a lion for a charger; and from Ananta, a wTeathed circlet of 
snakes.” 

Armed with these terrible weapons she proceeded to the Vindhya mountains. Here 
Mahisha happened to see her and tried to capture her. But Durga, at the end of a fierce 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


56 

combat, during which the demon transformed himself into various shapes, pierced him 
with a spear and killed him. 

A story is also told of how she killed Sumbha and Nisumbha, two Asura brothers. 
These demons performed austerities for 11,000 years and received a boon from Shiva by 
the power of which they could be slain by no god. After receiving the boon, they declared 
war on the gods, who in their distress went to Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva for protec- 
tion, Mahadcva advised them to address their complaint to his consort as no god could 
kill the demons but a goddess could. So Durga was propitiated by a religious ceremony 
and she agreed to destroy the demons. 

Durga then assumed the shape of a woman of celestial beauty and proceeded to 
the Himalayas where Chunda and Munda, two spies of Sumbha and Nisumbha, saw her. 
They sent word to their masters of the presence of the lovely lady in the forest, and added 
that she would be a desirable addition to their women's apartments. On hearing this 
Sumbha sent a messenger to Durga with a polite invitation to her to visit him and be his 
wife. Durga told the envoy that she had taken a vow to marry only the person who 
could defeat her in single combat and added that Sumbha might try his luck. The 
messenger returned to Sumbha but he paid no heed to the message 0! Durga and sent his 
general Dhumralochana to seize Durga and bring her to him. Dhumralochana set out 
with a huge army but Durga set up a dreadful roar which destroyed practically the whole 
army and the general. This news reaching Sumbha and Nisumbha, they sent Chunda 
and Munda to capture the goddess. Durga first devoured the armies of these in easy 
mouthfuls of thirty to hundred demons, and, after thus destroying the whole army, she 
caught Chunda by the hair and cut oft his head. Seeing this Munda advanced, and was 
also slain in a similar manner. 

Now, Sumbha and Nisumbha themselves proceeded to the Himalayas with an army 
consisting of legions of demons. Durga produced several goddesses from her locks and 
a terrible combat between the demons and goddesses took place. The armies of the demons 
were destroyed by the goddesses, when Sumbha engaged Durga in single combat. Sumbha 
was slain after a fierce fight ; then Nisumbha advanced, but he too was killed. After 
this, the goddesses celebrated the victory by feasting on the carnage. 

It is said she received her name Durga on account of her having killed an Asura 
named Durga. This demon “conquered the three worlds and dethroned Indra, Vayu, 
Chandra, Yama, Varuna, Agni, ICubera, Isani, Rudra and Surya." The wives of the Rishis 
were compelled to celebrate his praises. He sent all the gods from their heavens to live 
in forests, and at his nod they came and worshipped him. He abolished all religious 
ceremonies ; the Brahmins, through fear of him forsook the reading of the Veda ; the 
rivers changed their courses ; fire lost its energy ; and the terrified stars retired from sight. 
He assumed the forms of the clouds and gave rain whenever he pleased ; the earth through 
fear gave an abundant increase, and the trees yielded flowers and fruits out of season. The 
gods in their distress approached Shiva who conducted them to his wife. Parvati undertook 
to destroy the demon and created Kalaratree (the dark night) whom she sent to kill him. 
Kalaratrec engaged the Asuras in battle, but after some initial successes was defeated and 
put to flight. Then Parvati herself came out of Mount Kailas, and a celebrated contest 
took place. Durga's army consisted of 100,000,000 chariots, 120,000,000,000 elephants, 
10,000,000 swift-footed horses and innumerable soldiers. "As soon as the giant drew near, 
Parvati assumed one thousand arms, and called to her assistance different kinds of beings. 
The troops of the giant poured their arrows on Parvati, thick as th 6 drops of rain in a 
storm they tore up the trees, mountains, etc., and hurled them at the goddess, who, 




EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


56 

combat, during which the demon transformed himself into various shapes, pierced him 
with a spear and killed him. 

A story is also told of how she killed Sumbha and Nisumbha, two Asura brothers. 
These demons performed austerities for n,ooo years and received a boon from Shiva by 
the power of which they could be slain by no god. After receiving the boon, they declared 
war on the gods, who in their distress went to Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva for protec- 
tion. Mahadeva advised them to address their complaint to his consort as no god could 
kill the demons but a goddess could. So Durga was propitiated by a religious ceremony 
and she agreed to destroy the demons. 

Durga then assumed the shape of a woman of celestial beauty and proceeded to 
the Himalayas where Chunda and Munda, two spies of Sumbha and Nisumbha, saw her. 
They sent word to their masters of the presence of the lovely lady in the forest, and added 
that she would be a desirable addition to their women’s apartments. On hearing this 
Sumbha sent a messenger to Durga with a polite invitation to her to visit him and be his 
wife. Durga told the envoy that she had taken a vow to marry only the person who 
could defeat her in single combat and added that Sumbha might try his luck. The 
messenger returned to Sumbha but he paid no heed to the message of Durga and sent his 
general Dhumralochana to seize Durga and bring her to him. Dhumralochana set out 
With a huge army but Durga set up a dreadful roar which destroyed practically the whole 
army and the general. This news reaching Sumbha and Nisumbha, they sent Chunda 
and Munda to capture the goddess. Durga first devoured the armies 01 these in easy 
mouthfuls of thirty to hundred demons, and, after thus destroying the whole army, she 
caught Chunda by the hair and cut off his head. Seeing this Munda advanced, and was 
also slain in a similar manner. 

Now, Sumbha and Nisumbha themselves proceeded to the Himalayas with an army 
consisting of legions of demons. Durga produced several goddesses from her locks and 
a terrible combat between the demons and goddesses took place. The armies of the demons 
were destroyed by the goddesses, when Sumbha engaged Durga in single combat. Sumbha 
was slain after a fierce fight ; then Nisumbha advanced, but he too was killed. After 
this, the goddesses celebrated the victory by feasting on the carnage. 

It is said she received her name Durga on account of her having killed an Asura 
named Durga. This demon “conquered the three worlds and dethroned Indra, Vayu, 
Chandra, Yama, Varuna, Agni, Kubera, Isani, Rudra and Surya." The wives of the Rishis 
were compelled to celebrate his praises. He sent all the gods from their heavens to live 
in forests, and at his nod they came and worshipped him. He abolished all religious 
ceremonies ; the Brahmins, tlirough fear of him forsook the reading of the Veda ; the 
rivers changed their courses ; fire lost its energy ; and the terrified stars retired from sight. 
He assumed the forms of the clouds and gave rain whenever he pleased ; the earth through 
fear gave an abundant increase, and the trees yielded flowers and fruits out of season. The 
gods in their distress approached Shiva who conducted them to his wife. Parvati undertook 
to destroy the demon and created Kalaratree (the dark night) whom she sent to kill him. 
Kalaratrcc engaged the Asuras in battle, but after some initial successes was defeated and 
put to flight. Then Parvati herself came out of Mount Kailas, and a celebrated contest 
took place. Durga ’s army consisted of 100,000,000 chariots, 120,000,000,000 elephants, 
10,000,000’ swift-footed horses and innumerable soldiers. “As soon as the giant drew near. 
Pawati assumed one thousand arms, and called to her assistance different kinds of beings- 
The troops of the giant poured their arrows on Parvati, thick as the drops of rain in a 
storm ; they tore up the trees, mountains, etc., and hurled them at the goddess, who. 



PLATE XXV 



DCVAKt NURSING KRISHNA 
rfrom Mnor'* Hindu Pantheon} 



’LATE XXVI 



VARUXA 

(Prince ci Wales Museum. Bomtai ) 




74 


MARRIAGE OF SHIVA \ND i’ARVATI 
(From Fllora) 



7® 


AN ASCETIC PRACTISING SELF-TORTURE 
(From a painting by Solvyns) 




**lfIV\ AND 1’ARVATI ON MOI ST K Ml \S 
(I rretl Moct '« tlnmJu fjwlreiil 



PLATE XXX 








PLATE XXXII 




THE HINDU PANTHEON 


57 

however, threw a weapon which carried away many of the arms of the giant ; then he, 
in return, hurled a flaming dart on the goddess; she turned it aside. He discharged 
another ; but this also she resisted by a hundred arrows. He next let fly an arrow at 
Parvati’s breast ; but this too she repelled as well as two other instruments, a club and 
a spike. At last Parvati seized Durga and set her left loot on his breast ; but he disengaged 
himself and renewed the fight. The beings (9,000,000) whom Parvati caused to issue from 
her body then destroyed all the soldiers of the giant. In return Durga caused a dreadful 
shower of hail to descend, the effect of which Parvati counteracted by an instrument called 
Shoshunu. He next breaking off a piece of a mountain threw it at Parvati who cut it into 
seven pieces by her arrows. The giant now assumed the shape of an elephant as large as a 
mountain and approached the goddess ; but she tied his legs and, with her nails, which 
were like simitars, tore him to pieces. He then arose in the form of a buffalo, and with 
his horns cast stones, trees and mountains at the goddess, tearing up the trees by the breath 
of his nostrils. The goddess next pierced him with her trident when he reeled to and fro 
and renouncing the form of a buffalo assumed his original body as a giant with a thousand 
arms and weapons in each. Going up to Parvati, the goddess seized him by his thousand 
arms and carried him into the air, whence she threw him down with dreadful force. Per- 
ceiving, however, that this had no effect she pierced him in the breast with an arrow, when 
the blood issued in streams from his mouth and he expired."* 

Durga is represented in art as a woman of gentle countenance with ten arms in 
each of which she holds a weapon. > With one foot she presses on the body of Mahisha 
and the other rests on her Vahan, the lion which is depicted as lacerating the body of Mahisha. 
She wears a crown on her head and her clothes are magnificently jewelled. 

The most formidable aspect of the consort of Shiva is Kali who, it is said destroyed 
Kal, Time, itself. Kali is widely worshipped in India as the goddess of terror and the 
lower classes are particularly devoted to her. Most of the devil dances, dark rites and 
obscene ceremonials practised in India by the lower orders can be traced to her. She is 
the goddess of epidemics and cataclysms. She is evidently of non- Ary an origin, a relic 
of aboriginal savagery incorporated in Hinduism as the personification of destruction. 

Kali is propitiated by sacrifices of animals and birds. At one time, it is believed, 
men were also offered to her as victims. In the Kalika Pur ana Shiva tells his sons ; ‘‘The 
flesh of the antelope and the rhinoceros give my beloved ; and she is pleased for five hundred 
years. By a human sacrifice, attended by the forms laid down, Devi is pleased one thousand 
years ; and by a sacrifice of three men, one hundred thousand years. By human flesh 
Kamakshi, Cliandika, and Bhairavi who assume my shape, aTe pleased one thousand years. 
An oblation of blood, which has been rendered pure by holy texts, is equal to ambrosia ; 
the head and flesh also afford much delight to the goddess Cliandika.” 

The proper method of ritual killing of the victim is thus described : — 

"Let the sacrificer repeat the word Kali twice, then the words Devi, Rajeswari ; 
then Laicah Dandayai, Namah ! which words may be rendered— Hail, Kali ! Kali 1 hail Deri ! 
goddess of thunder ; hail 1 iron-sceptred goddess !— let him then take the axe in his hand 
and again. invoke the same by the Kalaratriya text as follows : Let the sacrificer say Hraug 1 
Hring 1 Kali Kali l O horrid toothed goddess ! eat, cut, destroy all the malignant— cut 
with this axe ; bind, bind ; seize, seize ; drink blood ; Spheng, Sphettg ; secure, secure ; 
salutation to Kali— -Thus ends the Kalaratriya Mantra.” 

* Mythology of lit Hindus by C. Co'emin. 



58 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


Bhavni, whom the Thugs used to invoke before starting on their depredatory ex- 
peditions, was a form of Kali. Kali is also worshipped in different forms by thieves and 
many criminal tribes in India. 

Kali’s insatiable thirst for blood was occasioned by the circumstance of her having 
kiLled an Asura named Raktavira whose blood she drank. This Asura had received a 
boon from Brahma by the power of which every drop of his blood that fell on the ground 
became capable of creating innumerable Asuras like himself. Kali in her fight with him 
held him aloft, pierced him with a spear and drank every drop of blood that gushed from 
his wound and thus managed to kill him. 

Kali is represented in art as a black, half-naked woman of terrible aspect, with 
claws, and tusks, wearing a garland of skulls, her tongue hanging out and mouth dripping 
blood. 


The reason why Kali is painted black is because of her supposed mastery over Time. 
Shiva as the god of destruction is identical with the all-devouring Time and his distinguishing 
colour is white. In contrast to him Kali represents the dark abysmal void which is above 
time, space and causation. 

The consort of Shiva is known by many names of which the most familiar are Sati, 
Parvati, Uma, Devi, Durga, Kali, Bhavani, Anna Purna Devi and Chinna Mustaka. As 
Parvati and Uma she is generally worshipped together with her consort and sons, but in 
the more active aspects she is worshipped alone. As the Shaivas worship the Great Goa 
in the form of the Lingam, the Shaktas worship his consort as Yoni (the mark of the female) 
the combined form of Lingam and Yoni representing sexual union, is also worshipped. 
The Shaktas elevate her to the position of the Primal Mother from whom “everything 
proceeds, who pervades everything and is conterminous with the Supreme Being himself, 
who is without beginning or end and is vaster than the universe.” As the Supreme Being 
she is also spoken of as having been worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. 

Like Shiva, Kali too is a deity of rhythm. Once, it is said, in her joy of conquest 
she started dancing and lost herself in the rhythm, at the dance. She became mad with 
the joy of the dance ; the worlds stood in danger of collapsing under her feet, and Shiva 
laid himself before her. She stepped over the body of Shiva when she came to herself. 

Lakshmi 

Lakshmi is the consort of Vishnu and is the goddess of wealth and material pros- 
perity. She is fabled to have risen, together with many other precious things, from the 
milk-ocean when it was churned for ambrosia, and as such is the Hindu counterpart of the 
Greek goddess of beauty, Venus Aphrodite. Lakshmi, because of her surpassing loveliness 
is also called Padmam (the lotus). When she appeared on the surface of the sea her res- 
plendent beauty captivated all the gods, and Shiva asked for her hand. But he had already 
seized the moon that had sprung up from the sea and hence Vishnu pressed his claim for 
Lakshmi. The goddess herself preferred Vishnu, and Shiva, in despair, it is said, chunx 
poison, which, however, was prevented by the good offices of Parvati, from reaching his 
bowels.* 


• Tor a diBerent version ol the myth explaining nhy Shiva diach poison, please see Chapter VI. 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


59 


The rise ol Lakshmi from the sea is thus described : 


"Her eyes oft darted o'er the liquid way. 

With golden light emblaz'd the darkling 
main ; 

And those firm breasts, whence all our 
comforts well. 

Rose with enchanting swell ; 

Her loose hair with the bounding billows 
played, 

And caught in. charming toils each pearly 
shell 

That idling, through the surgy forest stray'd ; 

When ocean suffered a portentous change, 

Toss’d with convulsion strange ; 

For lofty Madar from his base was tom. 

With streams, rocks, woods — by gods and 
demons whirled. 

While round liis craggy sides the mad spray 
curled— 

Huge mountain ! by the passive tortoise 
borne. 

Then sole, but not forlorn, 

Shipp'd in a flower, that balmy sweets 
exhal’d, 

Over dulcet waves of cream Pad-mala sail’d 

So name the goddess, from her lotus blue. 


Or Kamala, if more auspicious deem'd ; 
With many petaled wings the blossom flew. 
And from the mount a flutt’ring sea-bird 
seem’d, 

Till on the shore it stopp'd — the heav'n- 
lov’d shore, 

Bright with unvalu'd store 
Of gems marine, by mirthful Indra wore ; 
But she, (what brighter gem had shone 
before ?) 

No bride for old Maricha's frolic son, 

On azure Hari fix’d her prosp'ring eyes. 

Love bade the bridegroom rise ; 

Straight ov'r the deep, then dimpling 
smooth he rush’d, 

And tow’rd the unmeasur'd snake- 
stupendous bed ! 

The world's great mother, nor reluctant 
led; 

All nature glow’d when’er she smil'd or 
blush’d ; 

The king of serpents hush'd 
His thousand heads, where diamond mirrors 
blazed. 

That multiply'd her image as he gazed." 


Some Purattas speak o! Lakshmi as a daughter of the sage Bhrigu. On account 
of a Rishi's curse on Indra, the celestials had to leave their kingdom and Lakshmi took 
asylum in the milk-ocean which, when the memorable churning took place, gave lief up 
to the gods again. The Markandeya Puratta gives yet another account of the origin of 
Lakshmi and the consorts of Brahma and Shiva. According to this account, Maya, the 
Primal Mother (the creative principle in its feminine aspect) "assumed three transcendent 
forms in accordance witli her three Gunas, or qualities, and each of them produced a pair of 
divinities : Brahma and Lakshmi, Mahesha and Sarasvati, Vishnu and Kali. After whose 
intermarriage, Brahma and Sarasvati formed the mundane egg which Mahesha and Kali 
divided into halves ; and Vishnu together with Lakshmi preserved it from destruction.” 

Unlike her sister-in-law Durga, Lakshmi is renowned for virtues we consider femi- 
nine. She is ever devoted to her husband and is represented in pictures as sitting on the 
serpent Shesha massaging the feet of her lord. When Vishnu descended to the earth in his 
various incamatious, Lakshmi accompanied him. In the Ramachandra Avatar Lakshmi 
incarnated herself as Sita. As Rukmini she became the principal wife of Krishna. In 
other Avatars too she assumed appropriate forms and kept her husband company during his 
sojourn in worlds other than Vaikunta. 

In spite of this devotion and constancy, Lakshmi, in her character of the goddess 
of wealth, is spoken of as fickle. The idea was, no doubt, inspired by the ever turning 
wheels of fortune. 

While Sita is widely accepted as an Avatar of Lakshmi, a myth, obviously Shaivite 
in origin, speaks of her as an incarnation of Durga. After the conquest of Lanka, Rama, 



6o 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


one day, spoke to Sita of the terrible combat that took place between himself and the ten- 
headed Ravana, and he somewhat emphasized his own prowess ; upon which Sita smiled 
and told him that there was another Ravana with 1,000 heads, and asked Rama how he 
would like to meet him. Rama enquired about the kingdom of this Ravana and collecting 
a vast army of monkeys and men marched on his capital. But the 1,000-headed monster 
ate all his monkeys and men and put Rama himself to flight who came to Ayodhya and 
related the sad story to Sita. Sita then assumed her character of Durga and fought and 
killed the demon. 

The following passage in the Vishnu Pur ana tells us the benefits that accrue from 
worshipping Lakshmi : 

“From thy (Lakshmi's) propitious gaze men obtain wives, children, dwellings, 
friends, harvests and wealth. Health, strength, power, victory, happiness arc easy of 
attainment to those upon whom thou smilest. Thou art the mother of all beings, as the 
god of god, Hari is their father ; and this world, whether animate or inanimate is pervaded 
by thee and Vishnu.'' In another passage in the same Parana, Vishnu and Lakshmi are 
thus eulogized : “Sri, the bride of Vishnu, the mother of the world, is eternal, imperishable; 
in like manner as he is all-pervading, so also is she omnipresent. Vishnu is meaning, she 
is speech. Hari is polity, she is prudence. Vishnu is understanding, she is intellect. He 
is righteousness, she is devotion. He is the creator, she is creation. Sri is the 
earth, Hari the support of it. The deity is content, the eternal Lakshmi is resignation. 
He is desire, she is wish. Sri is the heavens, Vishnu, who is one with all things, is the 
wide extended space. The lord of Sri is the moon, she is his unfailing light. She is called 
the moving principle of the world, he is the wind which bloweth everywhere. The wiclder 
of the mace is resistance, the power to oppose is Sri. Lakshmi is the light and Hari who 
is the Lord of all, the lamp. She, the mother of the world, is the creeping vine and Vishnu 
the tree round which she clings. She is the night, the god who is armed with the mace 
and the discus is the day. He, the bestower of blessings, is the bridegroom, the lotus- 
throned goddess is the bride. The god is one with all male — the goddess one with all female 
rivers. The lotus-eyed deity is the standard, the goddess seated on a lotus the banner. 
Lakshmi is cupidity, Narayana, the master of the world is covetousness ; he who knows 
what righteousness is, Govinda, is love, and Lakshmi, his gentle spouse, is pleasure. But 
why thus diffusely enumerate their presence ? It is enough to say in a word that of gods, 
animals and men, Hari is all that is called male, Lakshmi is all that is termed female. There 
is nothing else than they.” 

Lakshmi is generally worshipped together with her consort. When she is worshipped 
alone her devotees exalt her to the position of the energy of the Supreme Being. Lakshmi 
is represented as sitting at the feet of Vishnu in his repose on the snake Ananta, or as flying 
with him on liis Vahan Garuda. Alone, she is pictured as standing on a lotus, her symbol. 

Sarasvati 

Sarasvati is the consort of Brahma, the creator, and hence is considered the goddess 
of all creative sciences. She is the patroness of music and poetry'. One of her names is 
‘Vach* meaning word. It is said she invented the Sanskrit language and the Devanagan 
script. The origin of the intricate science of Indian music is also traced to Sarasvati. 

As Vach, she is one of the few goddesses mentioned in the Vedas. In a hymn of 
the Rig Veda Vach describes herself thus : “I range with the Rudras, with the Vasus, 
with' the Adityas, and with the Viswadevas. I uphold both the sun and the ocean (Mitra 
and Varuna), the firmament (Indra) and fire, and both the Aswins. I support the moon 



THE HINDU PANTHEON 


6r 


(Soma) and the sun (entitled Twashtri. Pushan or Bhaga). I grant wealth to the honest 
votary who performs sacrifices, offers oblations, and satisfies (the deities). Me, who am 
the queen, the conferrer of wealth, the possessor of knowledge, and the first of such as 
merit worship the gods render universally, present everywhere, and pervader of all beings. 
He who cats food through me, as he who sees or who breathes, or who hears through me, 
yet knows me not is lost ; hear then the faith which I pronounce. Even I declare this 
self who is worshipped by gods and men ; I make strong whom I choose ; I make him 
Brahma holy and wise ; for Rudra I bend the bow, to slay the demon, foe of Brahma ; 
for the people I make war on their foes ; and I pervade heaven and earth. I bore the 
father on the head of this (universal mind) and ray origin is in the midst of the ocean ; 
and therefore do I pervade all beings, and touch this heaven with my form. Originating 
all beings I pass like the breeze ; I am above this heaven, beyond this earth ; and what 
is the great one that am I.” 

Although in the Vedas she is thus described, at present Sarasvati occupies a very 
subordinate position in the pantheon. Few images of Sarasvati are made, although one 
comes across many pictures of her in which she is depicted as a beautiful woman riding 
on a swan or peacock, with a Vina in her hand. Once a year scholars, students and musi- 
cians worship her, and books and musical instruments are placed for a day in front of 
an image or picture of Sarasvati ; no reading or playing of music is done on this day. TJiis 
holiday is known as Sarasvati Pooja and Hindu schoolboys look forward to it with great 
eagerness as a day of complete rest. 

The Puranas, as usual, differ in their accounts of the origin of Sarasvati. As we 
have already seen, some accounts relate that Brahma produced Sarasvati and married 
her. In one passage we come across the following story of the origin of Sarasvati, Lakshmi 
and Durga : Brahma, one day, visited Vishnu to consult him on some important matter 
and they, by their divine power, summoned Shiva to Vaikunta. While the three gods 
thus sat deliberating, from their combined energy there sprang forth a refulgent feminine 
form illuminating the whole firmament. Each of the gods wanted to possess her and she 
divided herself into three, Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga. 

Although Gayatri is considered a synonym for Sarasvati, one myth speaks of her 
as the second wife of Brahma. In a sacrifice Brahma performed, he, as a married god, 
had to do certain rites together with his wife but Sarasvati was found absent. A messen- 
ger was sent to call her and she told him that she was busy in her toilet and Brahma could 
very vycll wait for some time. The messenger conveyed Sarasvati's message to Brahma, 
and the god in his wrath asked some of the assembled gods to find another wife for him. 
They brought to him Gayatri, the daughter of a sage, and Brahma married her and per- 
formed the rite. On the belated arrival of Sarasvati there was a terrible row. Gayatn, 
however, pacified her by her eloquence and agreed to occupy a position subordinate to 
her. In certain accounts Gayatri is said to be the only wife of Brahma, and Sarasvati 
of Ganesha. 


In addition to these principal goddesses, there are other goddesses of minor 
importance. They arc either the wives of Devas (such as Indram, wife of Inara, 
Yami, wife of Yama, etc.) who are not worshipped, or those worshipped by a limited number 
of people and have but local importance (such as Shitala in Bengal, Manammen m the 
South, etc.). . 



CHAPTER V 


PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS AND 
THE DEMI-GODS OF THE MAHABHARATA 

T HERE are, in Hindu mythology, beings who occupy an intermediary position between 
men and gods. Some of them are sainted mortals, some are beings (neither gods 
nor men) created as such by Brahma and others incomprehensible creatures who 
arc spoken of in some accounts as subordinate to the gods and in others as their parents. 
We must bear in mind that according to Hindu conceptions all beings from the highest god 
to the lowest worm are parts of a whole that is Brahm and can identify themselves with 
their essence in liberation ; and as such it is inevitable that there should be considerable 
amount of confusion in the accounts of the innumerable celestials mentioned in the Pttranas 
and the epics. To this must be added the fact that the names of these celestials are woven 
into a maze of astronomic, astral and ethical symbolism. 

In the Institutes of Manu we are told that Brahma divided his own substance and 
"became half male and half female, or nature active and passive ; and from that female he 
produced Viraj’'. Viraj by austerities produced the first Manu named Swayambhuva 
who was entrusted with the work of creation. Swayambhuva produced ten beings called 
Prajapatis, lords of creatures. These Prajapatis are named (i) Marichi ; (2) Atri ; (3) An- 
giras ; (4) Pulastya ; (5) Pulaha ; (6) Kritu ; (7) Prachetas or Daksha ; (8) Vasishta ; 
(g) Bhrigu and (10) Narada. They are said to represent Morality, Deceit, Charity, Patience, 
Pride, Piety, Ingenuity, Emulation, Humility and Reason, respectively. 

These ten Prajapatis "produced deities and the mansions of deities, benevolent 
genii and fierce giants ; blood-thirsty savages ; heavenly quiristers ; nymphs and demons ; 
huge serpents and snakes of small size ; birds of mighty wing ; and separate companies 
of Pitris or progenitors of mankind.” 

The Prajapatis first created seven Manus or world teachers. As noted in the first 
chapter, the Kalpa or day of Brahma is divided into fourteen Manwantaras over each 
of which presides a Manu. We are living in the seventh Manwantara of the present Kalpa 
and the name of our Manu is Satyavrata. The Manus who preceded him were Swayam- 
bhuva (different from the first Manu son of Viraj), Swarochisha, Uttami, Tamasa, Raivata 
and Chakshusha. The Code of Manu was first promulgated by Swayambhuva, son 01 
Viraj and revealed, to each of the seven minor Manus at the beginning of a Manwantara. 

The ten Prajapatis also created seven Rishis celebrated in the scriptures as Saptarslus. 
They are Kasyapa, Atri, Vasishta, Viswamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bhardwaja- 
Astronomically these seven Rishis constitute the constellation of the Great Bear. The 
wives of six of them shine as the Pleiads. 

Some of the Prajapatis are also spoken of as Rishis. The meaning of the word Rishj 
is 'sage' and the word is often indifferently used in Sanskrit texts. It may also be noted 
that Atri and Vasishta are mentioned both among the Prajapatis and the Saptarshis. 

Prajapatis 

The Prajapatis are fathers of beings and not gods. They are not saviours of souls 
and hence are not worshipped. They are more noted for their prolific nature than lor 
divine virtues. Although Manu claims for himself the credit of having created them, 

*4 



PLATE XXXIII 



CHAPTER V 


PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS AND 
THE DEMI-GODS OF THE MAHABHARATA 

T HERE are, in Hindu mythology, beings who occupy an intermediary position between 
men and gods. Some oi them are sainted mortals, some are beings (neither gods 
nor men) created as such by Brahma and others incomprehensible creatures who 
are spoken of in some accounts as subordinate to the gods and in others as their parents. 
We must bear in mind that according to Hindu conceptions all beings from the highest god 
to the lowest worm are parts of a whole that is Brahm and can identify themselves with 
their essence in liberation ; and as such it is inevitable that there should be considerable 
amount of confusion in the accounts of the innumerable celestials mentioned in the Pitranas 
and the epics. To this must be added the fact that the names of these celestials are woven 
into a maze of astronomic, astral and ethical symbolism. 

In the Institutes of Manu we are told that Brahma divided his own substance and 
"became half male and half female, or nature active and passive ; and from that female he 
produced Viraj". Viraj by austerities produced the first Manu named Swayambhuva 
who was entrusted with the work of creation. Swayambhuva produced ten beings caned 
Prajapatis, lords of creatures. These Prajapatis are named (i) Marichi ; (2) Atri ; (?) An- 
giras ; (4) Pulastya ; (5) Pulaha ; (6) Kritu ; (7) Prachetas or Daksha ; (8) Vasishta ; 
(9) Bhrigu and (10) Narada. They are said to represent Morality, Deceit, Charity, Patience, 
Pride, Piety, Ingenuity, Emulation, Humility and Reason, respectively. 

These ten Prajapatis "produced deities and the mansions of deities, benevolent 
genii and fierce giants ; blood-thirsty savages ; heavenly quiristers ,* nymphs and demons ; 
huge serpents and snakes of small size ; birds of mighty wing ; and separate companies 
of Pitris or progenitors of mankind." 

The Prajapatis first created seven Manns or world teachers. As noted in the first 
chapter, the Kalpa or day of Brahma is divided into fourteen Manwantaras ovef eacn 
of which presides a Manu. We are living in the seventh Manwantara of the present Kalpa 
and the name of our Manu is Satyavrata. The Manus who preceded him were Swayam- 
bhuva (different from the first Manu son of Viraj), SwaTochisha, Uttami, Tamasa, Raivata 
and Chakshusha. The Code of Manu was first promulgated by Swayambhuva, son 0 
Viraj and revealed, to each of the seven minor Manus at the beginning of a Manwantara. 

The ten Prajapatis also created seven Rishis celebrated in the scriptures as Saptarslus. 
They are Kasyapa, Atri, Vasishta, Viswamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bhardwaj - 
Astronomically these seven Rishis constitute the constellation of the Great Bear. 1,1 
wives of six of them shine as the Pleiads. 

Some of the Prajapatis are also spoken of as Rishis. The meaning of the word Ri s JV 
is ‘sage’ and the word is often indifferently used in Sanskrit texts. It may also be nQte 
that Atri and Vasishta are mentioned both among the Prajapatis and the Saptarshis. 

Prajapatis 

The Prajapatis are fathers of beings and not gods. They are not saviours of s0 ^ 
and hence are not worshipped. They are more noted for their prolific nature than 1 
divine virtues. Although Manu claims for himself the credit of having created them. 








ASCJ.TICS OF SHIVA PRACTISING PCNANCES 











PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KlNNARAS, GANDIIARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 65 

in most other accounts they are mentioned as having been directly produced by Brahma 
himself and as such are called the sons of Brahma. 

1. Marichi is, according to some accounts, the father of Surya (Sun) and the pro- 
genitor of the solar dynasty of kings of whom Ramachandra was the greatest. 

2. Ain is the progenitor of the lunar dynasty of kings to which the Pandavas 
and Kauravas belonged. 

3. Angiras. He is seldom mentioned in the Pur anas and occupies an unimportant 
position among the Prajapatis. 

4. Pulastya is the father of Kubcfa, the god of wealth, who was born of his first 
wife. He married an Asura lady also, of whom was bom Ravana, the king of Lanka. 

5. Pulaha. Minor Prajapati seldom noticed. 

6. Kriiu. Minor Prajapati seldom noticed. 

7. Prachetas or Daksha. We have already had occasion to speak of this son of 
Brahma in his character as the father of Sati and the enemy of Shiva. His goat’s head is 
symbolic of his foolish pride. He had sixty daughters, thirteen of whom were married to 
Rasyapa, twenty-seven to Chandra (moon) and one to Shiva. It is not known what became 
of the others. 

8. Vasishta is better known as a Kishi than as Prajapati. It is said Agni related 
the Agni Purana to Vasishta for instructing him in the two-fold knowledge of Brahma. 
Vasishta taught it to Vyasa who is reputed to be the author of the Purana in its present form. 

9. Bhrigu. We have already seen elsewhere how this sage in an assemblage of the 
gods undertook to ascertain who of the members of the Trinity was the greatest. His 
peccadillo with an Asura lady which led to his cursing Agni has also been related. In the 
scuffle that took place in Daksha's palace, Bhrigu fought on the side of his brother and 
Shiva pulled out his beard. 

Bhrigu is considered to be deeply versed in religious science. Varuna taught him 
the science and at the end of the course of his studies Bhrigu meditated on Brahm and 
recognized food to be Brahm : "for all beings are indeed produced from food ; when bom 
they live by food ; toward food they tend ; and they pass into food.” 

Not satisfied with this realisation of the Supreme Being, Bhrigu again meditated and 
discovered breath to be Brahm : "for all beings are indeed produced from breath ; when 
born they live by breath ; toward breath they tend ; they pass into breath." 

Brigu, however, did not consider this to be a true realisation of Brahm and again 
meditated and discovered intellect to be Brahm : "for all beings are produced by intellect ; 
towards intellect they tend ; and they pass into intellect." 

Bhrigu thought he did not yet realize Brahm truly. So he again meditated deeply 
and knew Ananda (felicity) to be Brahm: "for all beings are indeed produced from 
pleasure ; when born they live by joy ; they tend towards happiness ; they pass into 
felicity.” 

"Such is the science which was attained by Bhrigu. taught by Vanina and founded 
on the Supreme Ethereal Spirit ; he who knows this rests on the same support ; is endowed 
with (abundant) food, and becomes a blazing fire which consumes food ^ great is he by 
progeny, by cattle, and by holy perfections ; great by propitious celebnty. 








PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 65 

in most other accounts they are mentioned as having been directly produced by Brahma 
himself and as such are called the sons of Brahma. 

1. Marichi is, according to some accounts, the father of Surya (Sun) and the pro- 
genitor of the solar dynasty of kings of whom Ramachandra was the greatest. 

2. Atri is the progenitor of the lunar dynasty of kings to which the Pandavas 
and Kauravas belonged. 

3. Augiras^ He is seldom mentioned in the Puranas and occupies an unimportant 
position among the Prajapatis. 

4. Pulastya is the father of Kubera, the god of wealth, who was bom of his first 
wife. He married an Asura lady also, of whom was bom Ravana, the king of Lanka. 

5. Pulaha. Minor Prajapati seldom noticed. 

G. Kritu. Minor Prajapati seldom noticed. 

7. Prachetas or Daksha. We have already had occasion to speak of this son of 
Brahma in his character as the father of Sati and the enemy of Shiva. His goat’s head is 
symbolic of his foolish pride. He had sixty daughters, thirteen of whom were married to 
Kasyapa, twenty-seven to Chandra (moon) and one to Shiva. It is not known what became 
of the others. 

8. Vasishta is better known as a Rishi than as Prajapati. It is said Agni related 
the Agni Parana to Vasishta for instructing him in the two-fold knowledge of Brahma. 
Vasishta taught it to Vyasa who is reputed to be the author of the Parana in its present form. 

9. Bhrigu. We have already seen elsewhere how this sage in an assemblage of the 
gods undertook to ascertain who of the members of the Trinity was the greatest. His 
peccadillo with an Asura lady which led to his cursing Agni has also been related. In the 
scuffle that took place in Daksha’s palace, Bhrigu fought on the side of his brother and 
Shiva pulled out his beard. 

Bhrigu is considered to be deeply versed in religious science. Varuna taught him 
the science and at the end of the course of his studies Bhrigu meditated on Brahm and 
recognized food to be Brahm : "for all beings are indeed produced from food ; when bom 
they live by food ; toward food they tend ; and they pass into food." 

Not satisfied with this realisation of the Supreme Being, Bhrigu again meditated and 
discovered breath to be Brahm : "for all beings are indeed produced from breath ; when 
born they live by breath ; toward breath they tend ; they pass into breath.” 

Brigu, however, did not consider this to be a true realisation of Brahm and again 
meditated and discovered intellect to be Brahm : "for all^beings are produced by intellect ; 
towards intellect they tend ; and they pass into intellect." 

Bhrigu thought he did not yet realize Brahm truly. So he again meditated deeply 
and knew Ananda (felicity) to be Brahm : "for all beings are indeed produced from 
pleasure ; when bom they live by joy ; they tend towards happiness ; they pass into 
felicity.” 

"Such is the science which was attained by Bhrigu, taught by Varuna and founded 
on the Supreme Ethereal Spirit ; he who knows this rests on the same support ; is endowed 
with (abundant) food, and becomes a blazing fire which consumes food ^ great is he by 
progeny, by cattle, and by holy perfections ; great by propitious celebnty. 



66 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


io. Narada is the most interesting of the Prajapatis and is more often spoken of as a 
Rishi. He is the favourite son of Sarasvati and, as such, is a talented musician and is 
depicted in art, like his mother, holding a Vina in his hand. He is also fond of fun and 
frivolity and is never so happy as when witnessing a good fight. When there are no quarrels 
among gods, men or Asuras, Narada feels somewhat depressed and carries tales so as to 
engender ill-feelings among people. He is a well-travelled^age and keeps himself in touch 
with everything that happens in the three worlds. No secret is unknown to him. No one's 
house is closed to him. Although he is an ally of the gods he is popular among the enemies 
of the gods too. He visits them often and in their midst poses as a hater of the vanities 
of the gods and describes himself as a lone outcaste in the celestial region, and goes back 
to the gods with all the information he wants. He is often employed by the gods as a 
messenger. 

Narada is a gifted speaker, a good humorist and a great conversationalist. No 
party of gods is complete without him. He is popular among the ladies too. When there 
are no major quarrels abroad, he repairs to the ladies' apartments of some god, excites 
the jealousy of his wife with some tale of her husband's activities and thus engenders domestic 
quarrels and enjoys the fun. 

Narada was a great friend of Krishna (the Avatar of Vishnu) and the two used to 
make jokes at each other's expense. One day Narada boasted, in the presence of Krishna, 
of his musical talents and Krishna asked him to play one of his best tunes. Narada did 
so when Krishna took a log of wood and gave it to a bear ; the bear produced better melody 
from the log than Narada did from his celestial Vina. 

On another occasion Narada told Krishna that 16,008 wives were too many even 
for a god and asked him if he could spare one of his wives as he (Narada) was a bachelor 
and longed for the company of the fair sex. Krishna readily agreed and told Narada 
he could take the lady whom he found without her husband. The sage immediately pro- 
ceeded to the women’s apartments and entered the room of the principal wife of Knshna. 
There he found Krishna enjoying her company. He then proceeded to the next room 
where he found Krishna again with another wife. The poor sage went to all the 16,008 
rooms but found Krishna in every one of them and came away baffled. 

Saptakshis 

The seven stars of the constellation of the Great Bear are spoken of by the Hindus 
as Saptarshis (seven Rishis) and the six Pleiads as their wives. To reconcile the difficulty 
of six women being considered the wives of seven men, the following explanation is given. 
The seven Rishis and their seven wives formerly lived together in the North Pole. Agtu 
happened to see the ladies and fell in love with them. But he knew' they w r ere virtuous 
w'omen and hence w'andered about the world to cool his passion when he was seen by Swaha, 
daughter of Daksha, who fell in love with him. She came to know of his passion for the 
Rishis' wives and transforming herself into the form of the wife of every Rishi, except 
of Vasishta, had relations with him six times. This amour w’as witnessed by some wander- 
ing celestials W’ho circulated slanderous rumours about the ladies and the Rishis drove them 
away from their original abode to the position of the Pleiads. Arundhati, wife of Vasishta, 
was not suspected and was allowed to remain with her husband. She is the small star 
seen near the constellation of the Great Bear. 

The Pleiads, we have already noticed, nursed Kartikeya, the god of war, and in 
that myth they are mentioned as the daughters of six Rajahs. The story has a parallel 



TRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANPHARVAS, AFSARAS, ETC. 67 

in Greek mythology according to which Bacchus, the god of wine, was nursed by the Pleiads 
whom, when he came to power, he translated to the heavens. The Greek account says 
the Pleiads were originally seven, but due to a quarrel one of the sisters left for the North 
Pole, and she is the Arundhati of the Hindus. 

Most of the legends connected with the Rishis are found in the Ramayana. They 
lived in the great forests practising austerities and were the friends or family priests of 
Dasaratha and Rama. They enjoyed great occult powers and travelled through the three 
worlds at will. In the Tretayuga in which Rama lived, good men were like gods and the 
celestials held converse with mortals, and hence the apparent confusion of mortals with 
celestials. The Rishis and some of the legends connected with them are as follows : 

1. Kasyapa. This sage is noted for his prolific nature. Many Devas (celestials) 
were bom of him by his wife Aditi, of whom the twelve Adityas (suns) are the most promi- 
nent. He is the father of most of the Asuras too who were bom of his wife Diti and hence 
called Daityas. Garuda, the Vahan of Vishnu, was bom of his third wife Vinata. Most 
of the lunar mansions are, in some accounts, spoken of as the daughters of Kasyapa. 

According to certain authorities Kasyapa is a Prajapati. As the progenitor of 
a prolific family, this title is, in fact, better suited to him. 

2. Atri. Already noticed as a Prajapati. His wife in the Pleiads is Anasuya, 
celebrated for loyalty to her husband. 

3. Vasishta. He was the family priest of Dasaratha, father of Ramachandra. 

Astrologers watch the movements of Vasishta and Arundhati carefully as their 
influences are variously modified by their relative positions. Marriages that occur when 
the two are in auspicious conjunction “are sure to be happy and the couple would live 
together for a hundred years." 

4. Viswamitra. This sage is an interesting personage in Hindu mythology. He 
was originally a Kshatriya but by austerities became a Brahmin ; this is the only case 
related in Hindu scriptures of a Kshatriya ever having become a Brahmin by merit. The 
story is thus narrated : 

One day Viswamitra went out on a hunting expedition and happened to stray 
into the hermitage of Vasishta. This Rishi showed him great hospitality and treated 
him and his retinue to a repast the like of which Viswamitra, king as he was, could not 
afford to give a guest of his. He wondered how a hermit could come in possession of so 
much wealth, and, on enquiry, came to know that Vasishta was the owner of the cow 
Kamadhenu, which was capable of complying with every request of its owner. The king 
now desired to possess the wonderful cow and offered the hermit a fabulous sum of money 
as its price. Vasishta refused ; upon which the king offered him half his kingdom as 
the price of the cow. Vasishta again rejected the offer. The king now became angry 
and decided to drive away the cow by force. Vasishta resented this and the two fought. 
The hermit by his occult powers created many deadly weapons and put the king to flight. 
The baffled king now brooded on the impotence of royalty before priestly might and 
decided to become a Brahmin. He gave up his kingdom, repaired to the forest and began 
to propitiate Brahma by penances. He stood on one leg gazing at the sun for a thousand 
years and Brahma appeared before the devotee. But on Viswamitra s telling him 
what he wanted, Brahma told his devotee that he was asking for the impossible, and dis- 
appeared. But Viswamitra could not be put off like that, and he again began to practise 
austerities of an unheard of nature. Brahma could not sit in his heaven and again made 



68 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


himself manifest. But he told Viswamitra that it was well-nigh impossible for Brahma 
himself to make a Brahmin of a Kshatriya and gave him a weapon called Brahmastra. 
Armed with this weapon Viswamitra went to Vasishta and challenged him. The two 
fought. The Brahmastra was, however, overcome by a more powerful weapon used by 
Vasishta, and Viswamitra again repaired to the forests to practise austerities. This time 
he could not be satisfied with anything short of Brahminhood and equality of power with 
Vasishta, and so Brahma was forced to grant them to him. 

It is said that all the worlds recognize Viswamitra as a Brahmin, but not so Vasishta. 
Although in public assemblies this sage politely addresses Viswamitra as a Brahmin, in 
private he holds the opinion that even Brahma cannot change the caste of a man, and is 
contemptuous of the Brahminicai pretensions of Viswamitra. 

Viswamitra is also mentioned in the Vedas as the seer to whom was revealed the 
celebrated Mantra ‘Gayatri’, a repetition of which is considered of great merit by the Hindus. 
The following is the Gayatri : 

“This new and excellent praise of thee, O splendid playful sun Pushan, is offered 
by us to thee. Be gratified by this my speech : approach this craving mind, as a fond man 
seeks a woman. May that sun (Pushan) who contemplates, and looks into, all worlds 
be our protector." 

“Let us meditate on the adorable light of the divine ruler (Savitri). May it guid u 
our intellects. Desirous of food, we solicit the gift of the splendid sun (Savitri) who should 
be studiously worshipped. Venerable men, guided by the understanding, salute this 
divine sun (Savitri) with oblations and praise." 

5. Gautama. He is reputed to be the Guru (teacher) of Indra and we have already 
noticed the peccadillos of the king of the gods with Gautama's wife Ahalya. On one 
occasion the six Rishis plotted against Gautama and his wife, and persuaded Ganesha to 
appear before Gautama in the form of a cow and provoke him. Gautama was provoked, 
he struck the cow with a blade of grass and the cow died. This had the desired effect and 
Gautama fell into the snare of his brothers. 

6. _ Jamadagni. He was the father of Parasurama and the husband of Renuka. 
He was killed by the sons of Karthavirya and this made Parsurama swear undying venge- 
ance on all Kshatriyas. (Also see pp. 27-28). 

7. Bharadwaja. This Rishi had his hermitage in the forests of Dandaka and is 
mentioned in the Ramayana as a great friend and well-wisher of Rama. During the exile 
of this prince he often visited the hermitage of Bharadwaja. After Rama’s conquest of 
Lanka, Bharadwaja bestowed a boon on the prince by which all the trees from Bharadwaja s 
hermitage to Ayodhya stood in bloom. 

Drona, the celebrated archer who taught the Pandava and Kaurava princes the art 
of war was the son of Bharadwaja produced in a mysterious manner. 

All the Rishis including the Saptarshis are divided into four classes : i.e„ “Rajarshi, 
(royal sage), Maharshi (great sage), Brahmarshi (sacred sage), and Devarshi (divine sage) ; 
of these the first is esteemed the lowest and the last highest.” This classification is not, 
however, rigid and a Rishi mentioned as Maharshi in one place is at times described as a 
Devarshi, Brahmarshi or Rajarshi in another. 

In addition to the Saptarshis there are many other Rishis mentioned in the Hindu 
scriptures (such as Vyasa, the celebrated author of the Mahabharata, Durvasa, a portion of 



PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 69 

Shiva himself, Agastya, Suka and others). In fact any sage is referred to by the Hindus as 
a Rishi and in modern times the appellation is used to denote any distinguished poet, 
philosopher or saint. 

Vasus. Among the earliest creations of Brahma are eight Vasus (personifications 
of natural phenomena) forming a Gana or group of gods. The Vasus are spoken of as 
solar deities and their names are Ahar (day), Dhruva (the pole-star), Soma (the moon), 
Dhanu (fire as heat), Anila (wind), Anala (fire as light), Pratyush (day-break) and Pralihasa 
(twilight). There are nine of these Ganas, and Ganesha as his name indicates, is the leader 
of these groups. 

Rudras. In the Vedas the Rudras are mentioned as storm deities, companions of 
Indra. The functions and nature of the Puranic Rudras are incomprehensible. Accord- 
ing to the Vishnu Purnna, Rudra sprang up, half-male, half-female, from the frown of 
Brahma. " ‘Separate yourself,' Brahma said to him ; obedient to which command Rudra 
became two-fold, disjoining his male and female natures. His male being he again divided 
into eleven persons of whom some were agreeable, some hideous, some fierce, some mild ; 
and he multiplied his female nature manifold, of complexions black and white.” 

Pitris or Manes. The Code of Manu says : “from Rishis came Pitris or patriarchs ; 
from the Pitris both Devas and Danavas, from the Devas, this whole world of animals 
and vegetables in due order.” The Pitris are said to be “free from wrath ; intent on purity ; 
ever exempt from sexual passions ; endued with exalted qualities ; they are primeval deities 
who have laid arms aside.” Many ceremonials are performed in honour of the Pitris and 
they are worshipped in all funeral rites, particularly in the Shraddha, the anniversary of 
departed ones. “The time most sacred to the manes or Pitris is the dark half of each 
month ; and the day of conjunction is the fittest day.” 

Siddhas are beings enjoying great occult powers. They are "of subdued senses, 
continent and pure, undesirous of progeny and therefore victorious over death. They take 
no part in the procreation of living beings and detect the unreality of properties of elementary 
matter.- They are ‘eighty thousand in number." 

Gandharvas are celestial minstrels. The Gandharva is half-man, half-bird. 

Kinnaras are the male dancers of the celestial kingdom. In shape they are akin to 
the Gandharvas. 

, Apsaras are the dancing girls of Indra's court. They rose from the milk ocean when 
it was churned, and are of ‘resplendent and celestial forms'. But they did not undergo 
purification and hence no god could wed them. So they became women of easy virtue and 
dwelt among the Gandharvas. The Apsaras are six hundred millions in number ; some 
of the most important among them are Urvasi, Menaka, Rambha and Tilottama. The 
Apsaras occupy in Hindu mythology the position of the fairies of Western mythology. 

The Gandharvas, Kinnaras and Apsaras do not live in heaven but inhabit the valleys 
of the mythical mountains. They are a law’ unto themselves in matters moral. They are, 
more or less, social outcastes and represent the actors, dancers and singers of this world of 
whom the Code of Manu speaks with supreme contempt. 

The Mahabharata 

Most of the heroes mentioned in the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic of about 
100,000 slokas or stanzas in length, are demigods. They are either incarnations of gods. 



7 ° 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


or their sons born of mortal women. These demigods are best studied with the main 
story as the background, and hence I shall narrate it at some length. Moreover, no work 
on Hindu mythology can be complete without an account of the epic battle which symbolizes 
the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Mahdbharaia also contains most of the legends 
and traditions of the race and is known and honoured as the fifth Veda. 

While the Dwaparayuga was drawing towards a close, there ruled in Hastinapur 
(Delhi) a king of the Somavansa (lunar dynasty) whose name was Shantanu. One day he 
went out hunting and saw by a mountain stream a lady who was beautiful as a nymph. 
The king fell in love with her and asked for her hand. She agreed to become his queen 
but made him promise that he would not express resentment at any of her actions. 

Shantanu and Ganga (this was the lady's name) lived happily together and a son was 
bom to them. Ganga took the babe in her arms, proceeded to the Ganges and drowned 
the child in the river. Shantanu saw this unnatural behaviour of the mother and was 
grieved, but because of the promise he had made to her he said nothing and kept his peace. 
Ganga gave birth to six more sons and all of them were drowned in the river. When, at 
last, an eighth child was bom to her and she decided to drown that child too, Shantanu 
objected. Ganga then assumed the form of a goddess and said to Shantanu: "Know 
me to be the incarnation of the Celestial Ganges, the mother of the eight Vasus who were 
cursed by a Rishi to become mortals. I have liberated seven of my children, the eighth 
is with you. Take care of him, he will be great and invincible in battle. But you have 
broken the pledged word and I cannot remain with you any longer." Saying this she 
flew upwards and disappeared among the clouds. 

Shantanu named the child Bhishma and brought him up with great caie. The 
child grew into magnificent manhood and gave promise of a great military career. 

Some years passed and Shantanu again .went out hunting. He saw beside a village 
ferry, Satyavati, the beautiful daughter of the king of the fishers, and fell in love with her. 
But her father would only consent to the marriage if Shantanu promised that Satyavati s 
son would be made heir to the throne. This the king would not do, for he loved Bhishma 
dearly and would not deprive his great son of his birthright for the satisfaction of his own 
love. So he returned to Hastinapur with a heavy heart. 

Bhishma happened to notice his father’s dejection and, on enquiring of the kings 
men, came to know the cause of it. The young prince immediately proceeded to the 
chief of the fishers and told him that he had renounced his right to the throne and Satyavati 
might be married to Shantanu. But the chieftain did not want any claimant to the throne 
to appear afterwards and asked Bhishma to remain celibate. Bhishma agreed and took 
an oath accordingly. After this, Satyavati was entrusted to Bhishma who drove her in his 
chariot to Hastinapur and presented her to his father. Shantanu was overcome by the 
nobility of sentiments evinced by his son and blessed him to become invincible. 

Shantanu, on his death, left a son named Vichitravirya who died soon after lus 
marriage. His wives Ambika and Ambalika then had, according to the sanctions of Ni- 
yoga,* relations with the sage Vyasa who was practising austerities in the forest. This 
sage had matted locks, a beard that reached to his ankles and a stinking body, and appeared 
loathsome to the young queens. So, when Vyasa embraced Ambika this lady closed her 
eyes and consequently her child, Dhritarashtra, was bom blind ; Ambalika turned pah- 
and hence her son Pandu was bom pale. Dhritarashtra, because of his blindness, could 

* An ancient usage by which a man conM raise issue to bis impotent or deceased fnenr! or brother by his wtfe. It tnll 
be noticed that the Jews had a similar custom. 



PRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 71 

not become King and hence Pandu, when he came of age, was installed on the throne. 

Pandu married Kunti and Madri, but unfortunately could not have conjugal relations 
with them as lie had fallen under the curse of a Rishi. But Kunti before marriage had 
received a boon by which she could worship any five gods of the pantheon and beget a 
son by each. To test the efficacy of the boon she had already worshipped Surya {the 
sun) and obtained a son named Kama whom she had to cast off as, at that time, she was 
unmarried. Kunti told Pandu of the boon and with his permission she worshipped Dhar- 
maraja (Yama), Vayu (the god of wind) and Indra in turn and was blessed with three sons, 
Dharmaputra (Yudhishtira), Bhima and Arjuna. She could obtain one more son but she 
generously transferred this power to Madri, the second wife of Pandu, who worshipped the 
twin As wins, and gave birth to the twins Nakulaand Sahadeva. 

After the birth of his sons Pandu went out with his wives for a pleasure trip into the 
forests where, animated by the charm of the forest scenery and maddened by love, he forgot 
the curse, approached Madri and on touching her, fell down dead. Madri immolated herself 
on the funeral pyre of her husband. 

After Pandu’s death Dhritarashtra acted as regent for his sons with Bhishma as 
the counsellor. The blind king had one hundred sons (called the Kauravas) of whom 
Duryodhana was the eldest and Dussasana the second. The Pandavas (the sons of Pandu) 
and the Kauravas were brought up together; the former were more energetic, and in 
games often beat the latter. And Duryodhana from his very childhood became jealous 
of his cousins and tried to destroy them by fair means or foul. 

When the boys came of age for instruction in the use of weapons, it became necessary 
to find a competent teacher for them ; and one was found more or less by chance. One 
day while the boys were playing at ball in a field, the ball rolled away and fell into a well. 
They stood wondering what to do, when they saw a thin dark Brahmin sitting under a tree 
nearby, and appealed to him for help. The Brahmin took a ring from his finger and threw 
that too into the well. "Princes,” said he to them, "if you promise me my dinner I shall 
draw the ball for you by means of blades of grass and then my ring with an arrow.” The 
princes promised him not only a dinner but riches for life ; upon which he shot a blade of 
grass into the well, shot others behind it till a chain of them was formed with which he 
drew up the ball. Then he shot an arrow into the well which returned to his hand with the 
ring. The children did not know how to reward so great a man, and said so. "Go to your 
grandsire Bhishma,” said the Brahmin, “and tell him what you have seen ; he will rew’ard 
me.” 

The eager boys went to Bhishma and related to him all that had happened. The 
great Vasu smiled. He knew that the Brahmin was the renowned archer Drona, son of 
Bharadwaja, who had come to Hastinapur on a purpose. He sent for Drona and, without 
asking any questions, appointed him instructor of the princes. 

Drona taught the princes the use of various weapons and the boy Arjuna distin- 
guished himself in archery. He singled out this prince and gave him special training in the 
use of bow and arrow. Arjuna too had a natural talent for marksmanship and he even 
■ practised at night. One dark night Drona happened to hear the twang of the bow, and he 
proceeded to the spot whence the noise came and saw Arjuna practising. He embraced 
his disciple and said : “Arjuna, thou shalt be great in battle.” 

On the completion of the education of the princes, in accordance with 'the custom 
of the time, a day was fixed for the princes to make a public display of their .skill in tKe 



72 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


use of weapons. Lists were prepared, criers went out proclaiming the date and time of the 
tournament, and all arrangements were made to accommodate guests and the public. 

At the appointed time, Dhritarashtra the king, together with his wife Gandhari, 
appeared in the Royal Gallery. Bhishma, guests and priests, nobles and ministers then 
took their seats. The citizens and common people thronged to the public galleries. And 
amidst the sounding of trumpets and drums, Drona, dressed in white, entered the lists 
with his son Aswathaman, followed by the princes. The princes, on a signal from Drona, 
dispersed in various directions and shot arrows on the targets previously fixed lor the 
purpose. The aim of every archer was sure and no arrow missed its mark. The sky was 
clouded with the shafts the princes shot in all directions. After archery a display in horse- 
manship was given. "The princes leapt on the backs of spirited horses, and vaulting and 
careering, turning this way and that, went on shooting at the marks.” After this, there 
was a chariot race and the delighted spectators cheered the victors. 

Now came the time for single combat. Duryodhana and Bhima entered the arena 
with their clubs. The two princes fought with equal skill and the enthusiastic spectators 
took sides, one party cheering Duryodhana and the other Bhima. The feelings among the 
public and the combatants ran high and Drona, to avoid a serious fight, stopped the contest 
and separated the combatants. Then Drona silenced the music for a moment and in- 
troduced Arjuna to the spectators as the most skilful of his pupils. The young prince 
acknowledged his teacher's compliment with becoming humility and gave a wonderful 
display of his skill in archery. "Such were the power and lightness of Arjuna that it seemed 
as if with one weapon he created fire, with another water, with a third mountains and as if 
with a fourth all these were made to disappear. Now he appeared tall and again short. 
Now he appeared fighting with sword or mace, standing on the pole or yoke of his chariot ; 
then in a flash he would be seen on the car itself and in yet another instant he was fighting 
on the field. And with his arrows he hit all kinds of marks. Now as if by a single shot, 
he let fly arrows into the mouth of a revolving iron boaT. Again he discharged twenty-one 
arrows into the hollow of a cow’s horn swaying to and fro from the rope on which it hung. 
Thus he showed his skill in the use of the bow and mace, walking about the lists in circles. 

Just as the cheering of the crowd was at its highest, an unknown person of noble 
bearing entered the lists, and there was the sudden silence of expectation. The unknown 
soldier was Kama, son of Surya the first-born of Kunti, whom she had cast away. 
had been picked up by a charioteer and brought up as his own son. Kama had Icamt 
the use of weapons at the feet of Parasurama to whom he had gone disguised as a Brahmin, 
as Rama was well-known for his anti-Kshatriya activities. Kama had leamt everything 
from Rama when the fraud was discovered. Rama in his anger cursed Kama. According 
to this curse Kama was to be successful in all battles except the last in which the wrong 
use of a weapon was to lead to his death. 

Kama was ‘tall and well-built, of magnificent bearing, capable of slaying a lion.' 
He wore a shining armour and declared in a loud voice that he could perform all the feats 
Arjuna had done and challenged him to single combat. Arjuna felt insulted and cned 
out that Kama would meet his death at his hands. "Speak thou in arrows, prince," said 
Kama, "as becoming a soldier.” The challenge was accepted. Kunti, who recognized- 
her first bom, fainted in the Royal Gallery' where she was sitting. 

Now one difficulty arose for Kama to engage Arjuna in combat. Princes could 
fight only princes and Kama could show no roj'al lineage. He was the son of a charioteer, 
Duryodhana, who was bursting with jealousy on seeing the honours paid to Arjuna, now 



PLATE XXXVII 



lot KHANDEHR \0 AND CONSORT 
(From Moor s Hindu Pantheon ) 



SARAS V\TI 

(Trom Moor's Hindu Pantheon) 






A VAISH.VAVA 
<rrom a fviinting bv Solwns) 


SOME VILLVCE IDOLS OI' SOLTil IS'PM 
(Trom Picturesque India l.y Martin Ilunmsnn) 


P RAJ AH’ ATI S, MANUS, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 


73 


came forward. He declared that if Arjuna would only fight with a prince, his father, 
Dhritarashtra, would make. Kama king of Anga. To the old king his son’s word was law] 
and he asked the chief priest to step forward and crown Kama king of Anga then and 
there. The priest did as he was told and Kama was declared king of Anga. Kama and 
Duryodhana then embraced each other and the former swore that from that day onward 
he would be the constant friend and companion of Duryodhana. 

At that moment a shrivelled old man entered the lists and advanced towards Kama. 
It was his foster father the charioteer, who came to congratulate his son on his having 
become a king. Kama publicly acknowledged him as his father and embraced the old 
man. And then Bhima cried : "Here indeed is a hero ! Methinks the whip is the proper 
weapon to fight with the son of a charioteer." Kama looked towards the sun whom he 
knew by intuition as liis father. His lips trembled to make answer, but before he spoke 
Duryodhana answered Bhima. "The lineage of heroes," said he, "is ever unknown. They 
found their own kingdoms and dynasties. What does it matter where a brave man comes 
from ? Even if Kama were of low birth, my friendship has ennobled him. Let him who 
dares measure swords with Kama." 

Now there arose an uproar in the crowd of spectators and the sun went down. The 
tournament was declared closed and the two bowmen parted without a combat. 

Drona’s Revenge 

Drona had not come to Hastinapur merely to make a living. He had a deep motive 
in undertaking the instruction of the princes. His special care in training Arjuna was also 
in accordance with this motive. With the assistance of the princes he wished, in short, 
to WTeak vengeance on Dmpada, the Panchala king, who hr o' once humiliated him. The 
following is the story of their enmity. 

Drupada and Drona were educated under the same teacher and, when they lived 
under the roof of their teacher, were great friends. One day Drona told Drupada of his 
poverty, and the young prince promised that lie would, on becoming king, give Drona 
wealth and honours. On the completion of their education, the two boys went to their 
respective parents and practically forgot each other. 

Drona was the son of the poor hermit Bharadw-aja and found it difficult to make both 
ends meet. But he put up with his poverty till a son, Aswathaman, was bom to him, 
when, moved by the needs of the child, he left the hermitage to seek his fortune. First 
he went to his old friend Drupada w ho was now a king, spoke to him of the good old days 
of their boyhood, reminded him that he had even promised to make him king of half the 
kingdom of Panchala and hinted that he, Drona, w'as in need of liis help. Drupada, on 
the other hand, w ondered at the presumption of the Brahmin who, on the strength of foolish 
promises made in childhood, claimed friendship with the mighty king of the Panchalas, 
and turned liim out. 

All the thoughts of Drona were now turned to revenge. He forgot his poverty and 
applied himself to the study of the science of war, practised the use of various weapons 
and in course of time became proficient in the art. But alone, he could not punish Drupada 
and hence he decided to form some powerful alliances ; and he hoped to find an ally in the 
princes of Hastinapur. 

According to the usages of the ancient Hindus, students had to give the teachers 
fee at the termination of the course of instruction. The fee was paid either in coin or if 



74 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OI~ INDIA 


services whichever the teacher desired. When the education of the princes was over, they 
asked Drona to name his fee. "Bring ye", said he to the princes, "the king of the Pan* 
chalas in chains to me". And lie looked hopefully at Arjuna with eyes of affection. 

The princes set out with an army and invaded the kingdom of Panchala. Drapada 
met them in battle but Arjuna by his skill in archery and by stratagem managed to break 
the ranks of the enemy and capture the king, whom he brought in chains to Drona. 

Drona saw Drupada and smiled. He asked the king whether he would now care to 
cultivate his friendship. Drupada felt deeply humiliated and remained silent. "Whether 
you desire it or not, Drupada," said Drona, "I wish to be your friend. And lest you should 
feel lowered by my friendship, I like to be your equal and shall have half your kingdom.” 
Saying this he released Drupada and sent him back to the other half of his kingdom. 

It was now Drupada’s turn to live for revenge. His mind was filled with wrath 
against the spiteful Brahmin, and with admiration for the skill of Arjuna. He practised 
austerities, performed sacrifices and propitiated Brahma who appeared before him and 
asked him what he wanted. Panchala prayed for a son who would kill Drona and a daughter 
who would wed Arjuna. The boon was granted ; a son, whom he named Dhrishtadyumna, 
and a daughter were bom of Drupada. 

The Conflagration at Benares 

Yudluslitira came of age and it became incumbent on Dhritarashtra to give up 
office and crown him king. But Duryodhana, son of Dhritarashtra, was an ambitious 
man and desired the kingdom for himself. He prevailed upon his weak-minded father 
to plan the destruction of the Pandavas. The blind king was much attached to his son, 
and the desire to see him crowned king overcame his sense of justice, and a plot was hatched 
to destroy all the Pandavas. 

The date of the annual festival held in honour of Shiva in Benares was approaching, 
and courtiers told off for the purpose began to praise to the Pandavas the beauty of the 
city of Benares and the splendour of the festival. The five princes very naturally expressed 
a desire to attend the festival and this was exactly what Dhritarashtra and his evil son 
wanted. They caused a house to be constructed for the stay of the Pandavas in Benares, 
and the architect was secretly instructed to fill the walls with inflammable materials. The 
unsuspecting Pandavas and their mother proceeded to Benares and stayed in the house 
built for them. But, on the eve of the night on which Duryodhana had decided to set fire 
to the house, a messenger from Hastinapur came to the Pandavas. The plot had been 
discovered by Yidura, a relative and well-wisher of the Pandavas who lived in Dhritavash- 
tra’S court, and it was he who sent the messenger to the Pandavas to inform them of the 
nature of the house they were living in, and of the intention of Duryodhana to set fire to 
it' that very night. 

Purochana, the accomplice of Duryodhana who was charged with the task of setting 
fire to the house, came to the house as a wayfarer and was allowed to sleep in the verandah. 
Presently came a group of tra\ cllcrs, an old woman and her five sons, and the princes 
allowed them too to sleep jn the house. The Pandavas kept awake for a long time and 
Purochana, tired by the vigil, fell asleep. Then the Pandavas set fire to the house and 
escaped with their mother into the forests on the other bank of the Ganges, unperccived 
by any of the citizens. In the morning, people saw the charred bodies of five men and a 
woman, and took them for those of the Pandavas and their mother. All the citizens la- 



I’RAJAVATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, K 1 NNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 75 

mented the death of the noble princes and their aged mother. The jealousy between the 
Pandavas and the Kauravas was well-known and foul play was suspected ; but no one 
dared to accuse the king. In Hastinapur, Duryodhana put his own interpretation on the 
death of Purochana. The man, he thought, had drunk and, after setting fire to the house, 
slept in the verandah. The Kauravas, however, mourned the death of their Kinsmen in 
due form, and rendered the dead bodies royal honours.* 

The Pandavas, in the meantime, disguised themselves as mendicant Brahmins, and 
after meeting with many adventures in the forest, came to the township of Ekachakra where 
they stayed. Here they came to know that Draupadi, daughter of the king of the Panchalas, 
was to be given in marriage to the winner in a test of skill in archery. They, together with 
some Brahmins of Ekachakra, proceeded to the capital of the Panchala King. 

The Marriage of Draupadi 

Drupada heard the report of the death of the Pandavas and was much gneved, for he 
had, as already mentioned, intended to give his daughter in marriage to Arjuna. Now that 
he believed that Arjuna was no more, he decided to find a husband for his daughter as 
skilled in archery as Arjuna himself. So he caused a mighty bow to be made with which 
the successful suitor for Draupadi’s hand had to shoot five arrows in succession through a 
ring suspended at a great height. 

Many were the kings and knights who assembled in Panchala’s court to win the 
beautiful Draupadi. Kama and Duryodhana were there. When all the royal guests had 
taken their appointed places, Dhrishtadyumna entered the platform with his sister and 
declared in a voice rich as thunder : "Oh ! ye monarchs that are assembled here to-day, 
behold the bow and the yonder ring ! He who can shoot five arrows through that ring- 
having birth, beauty and strength of person— shall obtain today my sister as his bride.” 
Then he introduced each of the assembled kings by name and lineage to his sister. One 
by one the kings stepped forward, strung the bow and shot arrow*: at the mark ; but none 
could shoot even a single arrow through the ring. Duryodhana failed ; various other 
kings renowned for their skill in archery also failed. And then came the turn of Kama, 
the king of Anga. The great bowman stepped forward and his bearing left none in doubt 
as to the result. The Pandavas who were sitting among the Brahmins thought that the 
princess was lost. Kama took the bow’, strung it with ease and grace, took aim and was 
about to shoot when Draupadi rose from her seat and cried out : “Let him not shoot ! 

I will not wed the son of a charioteer.” Kama smiled a bitter smile, glanced at the sun, 
threw the bow down and returned to Iiis seat. 

Some more kings tried their luck but all failed. When no other suitor of royal blood 
was left, a person with matted locks, dressed in deer-skin rug, rose from among the Brah- 
mins and stepped into the arena. There was a murmur of resentment among the princes, 
but the Brahmins cheered him. The general opinion, however, was that the sight of the 
beautiful Draupadi had deranged the man. But his bearing was impressive and no one 
stopped him. He stepped round the bow* in the act of worshipping it, took it, strung it 
and shot five arrows in quick succession through the ring. The Brahmins cheered him 
loudly. A Brahmin had beaten all the Kshatriyas in their own game 1 

Drupada declared that the young Brahmin had won liis daughter, and Draupadi 
acknowledged him as her lord. But the princes felt insulted. They rose up in arms against 

* The misfortune to the trailers w justified by a legend which r urrorts to say thit they were .nearrat.en* of certain 
deities "ho could only get liberation in this manner. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OT INDIA 


76 

the Brahmins and Drupada, and a severe conflict ensued in which the Pandavas and the 
Panchalas vanquished their enemies and put them to flight. The bridegroom then dis- 
closed his identity to Drupada and the king was overcome with joy at finding that the 
young Brahmin was none other than Arjuna. The Pandavas did not stay in Drupada’s 
court for long but took leave of the Panchala king and returned to their mother who was 
in Ekachakra. Arjuna was the first to reach her. "Today," said he to Kunti, "I have 
received in alms something precious.” "Good" ; said Kunti, "but share it as usual with 
all your brothers.” And thus Draupadi came to be the wife of all the Pandavas. 

In the scuffle that occurred in Drupada’s court, Kama and Duryodhana recognized 
Arjuna and Bhima. They reported the discovery to Dhritarashtra who convened a council 
of ministers and took counsel. Duryodhana wanted to dispose of the Pandavas by foul 
methods. Kama was a soldier and he voted for a straight and open fight. Bhishnia and 
Drona advised Dhritarashtra and his son to refrain from their evil activities and recognize 
Pandavas' right to the kingdom. After much discussion and argument, the opinion of 
these elders prevailed and it was decided to divide the kingdom equally and give one-half 
to the Pandavas. An envoy was accordingly despatched to Yudhishtira, and this prince 
accepted the offer and returned to Hastinapur with his brothers, mother and Draupadi- 

The Game of Dice 

The Pandavas, after receiving their portion of the kingdom, built a city which they 
called Indraprastha and a palac in it, the beauty of which even the gods envied, The 
palace was built by the renowned architect Mayasura and its flooring and ceiling were 
of such marvellous workmanship that a visitor could not distinguish crystal floors from 
water. Duryodhana was invited to see the palace and, while being taken round, he mistook 
water for a crystal floor and fell into a pleasure bath. Draupadi, who happened to see 
him, clapped her hands and laughed in pleasant raillery. But Duryodhana felt humiliated 
and swore in his heart that he would avenge this insult. He went back and plotted the mm 
of the Pandavas and of Panchali (Draupadi). 

Yudhishtira had a weakness for gambling, and Sakuni, the maternal uncle of Puryo - 
dhana, was noted for sharp practice in the game. Duryodhana sent out a challenge to 
Yudhishtira to play at dice with him. In those days deciding the fate of kingdoms by 
throw of dice was a recognized form of contest between kings, and Yudhishtira could not 
in honour refuse to accept the challenge. Besides, he too loved gambling. So li C weru 
to Hastinapur and gambled with Sakuni whom Duryodhana had appointed on his belult- 
In the game Yudhishtira began to lose. Whenever Yudhishtira lost a stake, Duryodhana 
laughed aloud and taunted him. This exasperated Yudhishtira and a madness seized him. 
He gambled away villages, towns, cities and finally the whole kingdom. Jewels, personal 
belongings, houses, chariots, horses and elephants were also lost, and he was left with 
nothing to offer as a stake. Yudhishtira then offered himself and his brothers as a stake, 
and lost. The mad king finally offered Draupadi and lost her also. 

This was Duryodhana's hour of revenge. Draupadi had insulted him in fndra- 
prastha ; he would now insult her in the presence of the assembled guests. He sent for her 
and, when she came, asked his ribald brother Dussasana to strip her naked before the 
assembly 1 Dussasana caught her by the hair and clothes and dragged her. The whole 
assemblage of men sat still as though paralysed by the immensity of the outrage. Draupadi 
cried aloud to the gods to descend to the earth and save her. In a moment, her weakness 
was turned into hatred and rage. She looked like the goddess Durga herself. She tore 
her hair and cried *. “I will not tie this hair till it is anointed with the blood of Duryodhana 



TRAJAPATIS, MANUS, RISHIS, KIXNARAS, GANDHAKVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 77 

and Dussasana.” At that moment Dhritarashtra heard the howl of a jackal in the distance. 
An ass brayed. The fate of the Kauravas was sealed. A nameless tenor seized the old 
king and he cried out in spite of himself : "Draupadi, my sons have sinned. Ask any boon 
you desire so that I may. expiate their sins." "Grant me my freedom and the freedom 
of my husbands,” she said. “Granted,” said the old man, and Dussasana immediately 
left Draupadi. 

Duryodhana now felt troubled. What he had gained in gambling was lost through 
the folly of the old kmg. The free Pandavas could become a potent source of danger. 
So he challenged Yudhishtirn again ; “a last throw of dice,” he declared, “and the chances 
are equal for you and me. If you lose, you and your people should live as exiles in the 
forest for twelve years and pass the thirteenth in some city unrecognized by any. If you are 
recognized in the thirteenth year, you have to pass another twelve years in the forests as 
forfeit. If I lose, I will do the same.” 

“Agreed,” said Yudhishtira, and the fatal dice were tlirown. Yudhishtira lost. 

The Pandavas with Kunti and Panchali retired into the forest. During their 
wanderings in the woods, they had many adventures with men, demons and beasts. They 
knew that their quarrel with the cousins would inevitably lead to war and hence took care 
to form alliances with some kings. They propitiated gods by penances and received from 
them many powerful weapons. The dishevelled hair of Draupadi was also a perpetual 
reminder of the need for revenge, and the princes kept themselves in training for the 
coming struggle. In their forest dwellings they were visited by many of their friends of 
whom Krishna (the Avatar of Vishnu) was one. He was their cousin on the maternal side 
and was particularly fond of Arjuna to whom he gave his sister Subhadra in marriage. 

At last the thirteen years’ exile was over, and Bliima and Arjuna counselled 
Yudhishtira to send word to Duryodhana to return their share of the kingdom or prepare 
for war. Yudhishtira was a pacifist and did not like to precipitate a war with his kinsmen. 
Krishna too advised the desirability of an amicable settlement and offered to go himself 
to the court of Dhritarashtra and plead for the cause of the Pandavas. All accepted the 
advice of Krishna, and he went to Hastinapur as the envoy of the Pandavas. 

Duryodhana in the meantime had not been idle. During his cousins' exile he had 
made vast military preparations and entered into affiances with many powerful kings. So 
when Krishna came with liis peace offer, Duryodhana very naturally^ took it as a sign of 
the weakness of the Pandavas and treated the envoy with contempt. Krishna first asked tor 
Indraprastha and half the kingdom. When this was refused, he asked for five provinces 
so that each of the Pandavas could rule as the chieftain of a province ; this was also refused. 
Krishna then begged in succession for five towns, five villages and, at last for five houses. 
The entreaties of Krishna only exasperated Duryodhana who declared that he would not 
give the Pandavas as much land as a pin-point and in his arrogance asked his men to seize 
Krishna and whip him. Krishna fought the Kauravas and made good his escape. 

The envoy went back to Yudhishtira and reported the failure of his mission. Now 
no course was left open but to declare war. Accordingly war was declared and all the 
allies of the Pandavas informed. 

On the declaration of war, Kunti was troubled by strange fears. Kama was her 
first born and a formidable enemy of her other sons. In the coming struggle either he or 
her other sons would be killed ; that was plain. Hence she decided to disclose his identity 
to Kama and dissuade him from fighting on the side of the Kauravas. One morning, while 



7S 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


asr 

upon hfr Unt ‘ ' V6nt b3Ck ‘° * he Pandavas wondering what a strange son Surya had bestowed 

of the Pand fi avl C w^nnf ? jMS® WaS the ^ Iai ? ot Kuruk shetra near Delhi. The forces 
marshaled the ™fc r U> e command of Dhrishtadyumna, son of Drupada, who 

SesceM The K„ ™ 1 dephants ’ cba ™ts, b °ntes and foot-soldiers in thelomt of a 
Krd on its wdng K f were marshaUed > n opposition by Bhishma in the form of a 

They knew ishma, Drona and others, fought on the side of Duryodhana. 
court S Dhritoshtrfond W h f Kaura J vas "f not just, but they were attached to the 
thw could to » w d f u £ b0 , ua f to “boy the orders of tfte king. They did aU 

decided to wntre w -ir o n H ar * king, dominated by his overpowering son, had 

of thfs epic ^ ?mt.Ses 1 ?^ ld in S the ? ? ad ,0 v fi ® ht for their kin S- whole theme 
the exigencies of du ty. ’ the " eed £or subordma ‘u>g one’s personal sentiments to 

Drona Sca^hef n Bldshm^ ayed h ™ in battle . the friends of his boyhood days, 

of the bowman sank not K-?‘ S er ^ t l ds,r o and ninny others whom he loved, the stout heart 
positfonoYthe rotoirial Sfw ° f but because of the cruel fate that placed him in the 
sat down wonderimr nf \vw r f£ C h° £ those beloved to him. He threw down his bow, and 
cos t, " £ what profit was a kingdom to him if it was to be won at such a 

into hiinby revcajifnn the rlvwif^ ° f Ar jnna. took him by the hand and infused courage 
CTcf tneTs oi duty the nu- t SOnS r adcst,al > to h™. In the Gita are emphasized the 

man U destroyed ’ ^ of * h . c s , 0lil and . ‘ h <= illusion that is destruction. No 

is changeable as clothes ' Ti e 0 I L bcin t’ 1 IS I I n. des t ruc tihle and the perishable outward body 

witliouf^crsonaYscnt^en^doudi^gVis'sense^T^dutvSs 1 ?!^^' h d ' e °f 

for a soldier to shirk his duty of kilL" onTlm hatMefi m - th b, S hB ft type of man. Nay, 
he, "stand up, take the boV and " d IS a Sm ’ Hence, Arjuna," says 

was rcadvYor tiie^attle 60 ^!,"' 1,5 n °w ovcrc . ome nnd the soldier in him rose again. AH 
was ready for the battle. The signal for action was given, and the fateful struggle began. 

by tlic^two site fchrinArith ■" lllc "jol't both sides took rest. Day after day went 

in die Pindm nnU he., . alt their might. Tiie havoc the arrows of Bhishma worked 
Tnod an^a li fe iZ celfwf ! tl,a “ dcs °! ba 'U=- Bhishma ms the incarnation of 

Whoever came in front nf the * ie ^ irce wor lds there was not his equal in chariot fight. 

\\ hoc\ cr came in front of the great warrior met with instant death Nine davs he foueht, 
and it became clear to every one that as lonp Phichmn j 7T i ^ 11 , . ?' 

fnr ir„ J long as iihishma lived there was no hone of victory 

for the Pandai as. Hence the Pandavas took counsel among themselves. Yudhishtira 



PRAJAPATIS, SIAN US, RISHIS, KINNARAS, GANDHARVAS, APSARAS, ETC. 79 

now remembered that Bhishma had, on the eve of the battle, expressed his sympathy for 
the Pandava cause, and asked him to consult him if he ever stood in need of his advice. 
He would now go to Bhishma, and ask him how he could be vanquished in battle 1 

Accordingly, on the night of the ninth day the Pandavas went into the Kaurava 
camp (the rules of ancient chivalry permitted such commerce at night ; in the Trojan war, 
it will be remembered, the Greeks and the Trojans often feasted together at night) and 
sought an audience with Bhishma. The great warrior received his grandchildren affec- 
tionately and asked them what they wanted. Yudhishtira reminded him of his promise 
and asked him how he could be vanquished. Bhishma smiled. He knew his time had 
come. “Yudhishtira," he said, “you have done well to come to me. I alone know the 
secret of my weakness. 1 am invincible by god, man or beast : yet, I will not fight a 
woman or a eunuch. You know the rest. But beware," he added, ‘‘I would not suffer 
myself to be killed by anyone except Aijuna or Krishna." He blessed his grandchildren 
and sent them back. Krishna could not fight because of a vow he had taken ; so it became 
the sad duty of Arjuna to shoot the fatal shaft that was to kill his grandsire. 

On the tenth day of the combat, while the battle was raging, there appeared before 
the car of Bhishma Shikhandin, a eunuch, who challenged him. Bhishma laughed. 
“Shikhandin 1” he exclaimed, and stood still. And Arjuna shot an arrow which mortally 
wounded Bhishma who fell down on the ground. He was taken by the Pandavas to their 
camp where, after predicting victory to the Pandavas and instructing Yudhishtira in the 
art of good government, he gave up the ghost, and ascended to his celestial abode. 

Drona took the place of the fallen hero. Five days did this general fight. He too 
was invincible in a straight fight, and as long as he lived no one could defeat the Kauravas. 
But Drona had a weak spot. He was greatly attached to his son Ashwathaman, and it 
was the thought of safety of his son that made him fight with irresistible energy. More- 
over, there was a prediction to the effect that as long as Drona lived Ashwathaman would 
be safe. 

On the fifteenth day of the struggle, when the battle was raging and Drona was 
fighting with the might of a god, a Tumour went forth that Aswathaman was dead. Drona 
was dismayed, but so great was his faith in the prediction that he would not believe 
the rumour, and went on fighting. He could not, however, see his son who was fighting 
far away from him in the field. “Aswathaman is dead” ; cried Bhima in his thunderous 
volte. So did Axyawa aod many other Yawdava generals. “Lyars," retorted Dcaua, 
“I can believe none of you. If Yudhishtira tells me, I will believe him, because he is incap- 
able of telling a lie and his testimony can never be false." At that moment Bliima shot 
an arrow, killed an elephant named Ashwathaman, and Yudhishtira saw it. Presently 
Yudhishtira came in hearing range of Drona. "Yudhishtira,”^ shouted the^fond father, 
“is my son Aswathaman alive ?" “Aswathaman," replied Yudhishtira, 'is dead ; I 
mean," he added in an inaudible tone, "Aswathaman the elephant.” 

Drona's energy left him and he dropped his bow. Dhrishtadyumna, son of Drupada, 
who was waiting for the opportunity, immediately killed the redoubtable hero who had 
humiliated his father. 

After the death of the two great generals Duryodhana became apprehensive of 
victory. But Kama, his bosom friend and the mortal enemy of Arjuna, was still alive. 
He was now appointed the generalissimo of the Kaurava forces, and the son of Surya fougn 
with extraordinary skill and courage. One by one all the Pandavas except Arjuna came 
within shooting range of his bow but he disdained to kill them because of the vow he ha 



8o 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


made to his mother. Kama did not meet Arjuna on the first day of his generalship, as 
Arjuna was fighting in another sector. But the next day the two heroes met and closed 
in for mortal combat. Arrows after arrows were shot and the whole army stopped fighting 
to watch the terrible combat the like of which they had never beheld. Arrows like snakes, 
arrows like hooded cobra, arrow's like birds, whistling arrows, arrows like flanges filled 
the sky and each shaft was cut by a countershaft shot by the opponent. At last, to end 
the combat, Kama took the mortal arrow given him by Indra, and shot it. But alasl 
it was the wrong weapon. Kama forgot that a serpent whom Arjuna had once harmed, 
had entered into it and the arrow when Kama shot it, assumed more speed than the archer 
gave it. Krishna, the ever-vigilant charioteer oi Arjuna, put extra weight into the car and 
pressed it down, and the shaft that was aimed at the throat of Arjuna sped away with his 
diadem. The dismayed Kama wondered what had gone wrong. Then the curse of Para- 
surama came to his mind. The end was nigh. Earth itself now gaped and began to swallow 
the wheels of Kama's car, and his charioteer cried helplessly. The son of Suiy’a made 
a supreme effort to fight Fate itself ; he jumped from the car and began to disengage its 
wheels. Arjuna advanced with his bow. "In the name of honour,” cried Karna, ‘do 
not shoot. All the laws of chivalry lay down that one in a chariot should not shoot an 
enemy standing on the ground.” 

"Where were honour and the laws of chivalry when my wife was insulted ?” as ^ e< * 
Arjuna in derision, and he shot the arrow he had worshipped all along for the destruction 
of Kama. Kama was cut in twin, and died on the spot. "When Kama fell, the rivers 
stood still, the Sun set in pallor, the mountains with their forests began to tremble and 
all creatures were in pain ; but evil things and the wanderers of the night were filled witn 

j°y" 

After the fall of Kama, Duryodhana fought a forlorn battle and was killed by Bhlina 
in single combat. *t is said that at the end of the battle not a single one of the active com- 
batants who fought on the side of the Kauravas remained alive. Evil was destroyed in 
its entirety. 



PLATE XLI 



(lYorn Maynrbhani) ,, 7 DOOR FRAME IN VINDHYAVASINI (DURGA) TEMPLE 

(Copyright Archaeological Department of India) 



PLATE XLIV 



SHIVA- PAR VATI 



CHAPTER VI 


ENEMIES OF THE GODS 


A CCORDING to Hindu ethical conceptions there is neither perfect good nor absolute 
•evil. Good and evil are comparative terms ; without evil there can be no good, 
and no evil without good. Hence in Hinduism there is no parallel to Jesus, the 
perfect man and God, or Lucifer the Devil. Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, the nearest 
approach to the ideal of perfection, was by no means without faults ; he killed Bali, the 
half-brother of Sugriva, hiding himself behind a tree, an act blamable by all the law's of 
chivalry ; he discarded his innocent wife in order to placate public opinion. Yudhishtira, 
the hero of the MahaWiarala, was a gambler ; when victory in the Mahabharata battle 
depended on his telling a lie, Yudhishtira, though reluctantly, did tell a lie and for this sin 
he was taken up to the gates of hell. 

On the other hand, Ravana and Duryodhana, the villains of the epics, were not 
without virtues. Ravana was a good ruler and a devoted son, and his ten heads were 
symbolic of his vast knowledge, proficiency in the six Shastras (sciences) and the four Vedas. 
.Duryodhana was a faithful friend, dutiful son and able statesman. The besetting sin of 
Ravana was foolish pride together with a love for other people's wives, and that of Duryo- 
dhana, love for power. Apart from these vices, both of them can be favourably compared 
to many of the heroes of the epics. 

The gods too are imperfect. In the quarrel for precedence among the members 
of the Trinity, Brahma, as we have seen, unhesitatingly spoke an untruth for which he lost 
his fifth head. Vishnu often had recourse to treachery in overcoming his foes. Shiva's 
wrathful nature led him to commit Brahmanicide, the r">st heinous crime a mortal or god 
could commit. 


1 No being, then, whether god or man, is perfectly good. The Supreme Being is not 
/exactly a being, but is without attributes and as regards That One, there is no point in 
J saying IT is good ; because IT is above good and evil. The conception of good and evil 
* arises out of the inherent incapacity of the mortal mind to perceive realities ; the perception 
of ordinary mortals is relative, and hence the illusion of ethical notions. While, for all 
practical purposes in human relations, the Hindus do recognize the need for a distinction 
-between good and evil and emphasize its importance in the scriptures, they hold that ulti- 
mate reality is ONE and good and evil have no place in IT. 

/ ” Another interesting point that strikes the student of Hindu mythology is the close 

/ relationship the Hindu mystics trace between good and evil. Both Daityas (Asuras bom 
of Diti) and Adityas (celestials bom of Aditi) are the sons of the sage Kasyapa ; thus, good 
and evil are half-brothers. The Pandavas and the Kauravas, personifications of good 
and evil respectively, were cousins. Shishupala, the bitterest enemy of Vishnu, was, as 
we shall see presently, an incarnation of one of his most ardent devotees. 

The above are the higher ethical conceptions embodied in some of the myths, related 
in the scriptures, of gods and their enemies ; for the rest, most of the fables narrated about 
.their conflicts can be classed in the category of the stories told of Jack, the Giant Killer. 


The enemies of the gods have many names, such as Rakshasas. Daityas, Danavas 
Yakshas, Asuras, etc. Of these, 'Asura' is the most commonly used word in Hindu sacred 
.literature, and the most incomprehensible. ‘Sura' means god and A-sura indicates a 
non-god. *Sura* also means one who drinks spirituous liquors and then A-sura means 



82 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


one who abstains from drinking. The ancient Aryans, it must be remembered, drank 
hard, and Asuras were probably non-Aryans who did not know the art of distilling. In 
one myth it is related that when the goddess of wine appeared on the milk-ocean with a 
bowl of Sura (liquor) the gods partook of it and their enemies did not, from which circums- 
tance the latter came to be called Asuras. A yet another interpretation is that 'Asura 1 
is the Hindu name for Assyrian. The Indo-Aryans were once inimical to the Assyrians and 
had occasion to fight many wars with them. 

In some accounts the word is used in a racial sense to denote non-Aryan races of 
barbarous habits ; in others it is used with an ethical import to indicate evil persons. We 
have seen that the Asura Kansa was the uncle of the god Krishna. Prahlada was the son 
of the Asura Hiranyakasipu, but is revered in the three worlds as a great soul. One of the 
hymns of the Rig Veda is addressed to an Asura ; in this capacity he is then as good as 
a god l 

In "their earliest conception the Rakshasas seem to be those unknown creatures 
of darkness to which the superstition of all ages and races has attributed the evils that 
attend this life, and a malignant desire to injure mankind. In the Epic period they seem 
to be personifications of the aborigines of India, presented under the terrible aspect of 
vampires flying through the air sucking blood, &c., in order to heighten the triumphs of 
the Aryan heroes who subdued them. In this character they play a very prominent part 
in the Ramayana, the beautiful epic of Valmiki. Here they are led by Ravana, the king 
of Lanka, which is supposed to be the island of Ceylon and its capital and they are subdued 
by Dasaiathi Rama, the hero of the poem. In the Puranic period they arc infernal giants, 
the children of the Rishi Pulastya, and enemies of the gods. They arc then divided into 
three classes : (i) The slaves of Kubera, the god of wealth, and guardians of his treasures ; 

(2) malevolent imps, whose '•hicf delight is to disturb the pious in their devotions; and 

(3) giants of enormous prop.-- tions, inhabiting the nether regions and hostile to the gods. * 

The Asuras and their conflicts with gods have also astronomic and astrologic meanings 
and many of the myths indicate the motions of the heavenly bodies and their crossing one 
another’s sphere of influence. 

Of the numerous Asuras mentioned in Hindu scriptures, three pairs were the most 
celebrated. They were incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, two warders of Vishnu’s palace 
who offended some Rishis and fell under their curse. They were given the choice of under- 
going six births on earth or other worlds as devotees of Vishnu or three as his enemies, 
and they chose the latter as leading to the speedier return to Vishnu. During their Asura 
births they remained ignorant of their celestial origin. They were first bom as Hiranya- 
kasha and Hiranyakasipu, then as Ravana and Kumbhakama and lastly as Kansa and 
Sliishupala. In the first two they were brothers, and in the last relatives. How Hiranyak- 
sha, Hiranyakasipu and Kansa were killed by Vishnu in his Avatars has been narrated 
in the second chapter. The destruction of Ravana has also been related, but this celebrated 
Asura is worthy of further notice. 

Ravana 

Wild tales of Ravana’s strength am told. In the Ramayana it is said : "Where 
Ravana remains, the sun loses his force ; the winds cease to blow ; the fire ceases to bum ; 
the rolling ocean seeing him stills its waves.” The mighty giant "had ten faces, twenty 
arms, copper coloured eyes, a huge chest, and white teeth like the young moon. His form 

* Tkt Hindu rantUon by E. Moor. 



ENEMIES OF THE GODS 


83 

was as a thick cloud or the god of death with gaping mouth. He had all the marks of 
royalty ; but his body bore the impress of wounds inflicted by all the divine arms in his 
warfare with the gods. It was a scarred by the thunderbolt of Indra, by the tusks of Indra’s 
elephant Airavata, and by the discus of Vishnu. His strength was so great that he could 
agitate the seas, and split the tops of mountains. He was a breaker of all laws and a ravisher 
of other men's wives. He once penetrated into Bhogavati (the serpent capital of Patala), 
conquered the great serpent Vasuki, and carried off the beloved wife of Takshaka. He 
defeated his half-brother Kubera (the god of wealth) and carried off his self-moving chariot 
called Pushpaka. He devastated the divine groves of Chitra-ratha, and the gardens of 
the gods. Tall as a mountain-peak he stopped with his arms the sun and the moon 
in their course, and prevented their rising.'’ 

The army of Ravana consisted of numerous legions of demons, each legion 14,000 
strong. These demons had frightful shapes : “some were prodigiously fat, others ex- 
cessively thin ; some dwarfish, others enormously tall and humpbacked ; some had only 
one eye, others only one car; some enormous paunches and flaccid, pendent breasts, others 
long projecting teeth, and crooked thighs ; some could assume any forms at will ; others 
were beautiful and -of great splendour." 

Ravana conquered the celestial kingdom with this ill-looking army and brought 
all the gods in chains to Lanka and made them serve him. “Indra made garlands of 
flowers to adorn his person. Agni was his cook. Surya (sun) supplied light by day and 
Chandra (moon) by night. Varuna purveyed water for the palace and Kubera furnished 
cash. The deities constituting the nine planets arranged themselves into a ladder by which 
(they serving as steps) Ravana ascended his throne. Brahma (the great gods were also 
there) was a herald proclaiming the giant's titles which were numerous. Vishnu instructed 
the dancing girls and selected the fairest for the royal bed. Shiva held the office of royal 
barber and trimmed Ravana's beard. Gancsha had the care of the cows, goats, and herd. 
Vayu swept the house. Yama washed the linen." 

In a fable it is related how Ravana obtained the Atmalingam (the real Lingam), 
Uma and a boon of immortality from Shiva and lost all the three through his folly. 

It happened that Ravana's mother was a devotee of Shiva and was in the habit 
of worshipping a Lingam. One day Indra stoic the Lingam and the pious lady started 
fasting. Ravana went to his mother and told her not to fast and that he would bring 
her the Atmalingam itself from the person of Shiva. He pacified his mother and started 
for Kailas. Reaching the abode of Shiva, Ravana betook himself to the practice of aus- 
terities. He stood on his head in the midst of five fires for ten thousand years. At the 
end of every thousand years he cut off one of his heads and threw' it into the fire. Nine 
heads of Ravana were thus chopped off. While he was about to cut his last throat Shiva 
appeared before him and asked him to name his boons. Ravana asked for three boons : 
Immortality, the possession of the Atmalingam and marriage to a woman as beautiful 
as Uma, the wife of Shiva, whom Ravana happened to see in the course of his austerities. 
Shiva gave him the Atmalingam and granted him the boon of immortality with a stipula- 
tion that he should not in any way harm Shiva. As for the wife, Shiva said that in three 
worlds there was not a woman to equal Uma in beauty ; thereupon Havana asked for 
Uma herself. Mahadcva showed some reluctance to part with his wife but Ravana threat- 
ened to perform austerities more severe than_ those from which he had just emerged. 
Thus intimidated, the Great God surrendered his wife. 

As soon as Ravana received the boons, Naiada appeared before him and persuaded 



Efics, MYTHS AND LEGENDS 0$ INDIA 


84 

"him to believe that Shiva had no power to grant a boon 0! immortality and the deity, 
in granting such a boon had, in fact, fooled the king of Lanka. Ravana was carried away 
by Narada's eloquence and in his anger tore off mount Kalilas where Shiva was meditating 
and threw it away. This was against Shiva's stipulation, and the boon of immortality 
became ineffective. 

Ravana then took Uma, placed her on his shoulders, and with the Atmalingam 
in his hand, proceeded towards Lanka. All the gods were now alarmed. Uma herself 
cried out to Vishnu to save her from Ravana. The god of preservation then took the form 
of an old Brahmin and appeared before Ravana. He saluted the Asura king respectfully 
and asked him from where he had got the old hag on his shoulders. "You blind old fool 
of a Brahmin," sa ; d Ravana, “can’t you see she is no old hag but Uma, wife of Shiva, the 
most beautiful lady in the three worlds ?” “Emperor of Lanka,” said the Brahmin, "it 
ill-bccomcs so just a ruler as yourself to revile an old Brahmin without cause. If you 
do not believe my words, please look at the lady yourself and then say whether she is a 
hag or not.” Uma took the hint and immediately transformed herself into an old hag; 
and when Ravana looked at her he was surprised to see that the old Brahmin had spoken 
the truth. He dropped the old woman there and then, and proceeded southwards with 
the Atmalingam. 

Ravana had not gone far when he wished to answer the call of nature. The Lingam 
could not be placed on the ground as Shiva had told him that if once the Lingam were 
to touch ground, it would remain there. So he looked for somebody to hold it for lum 
and found a cowboy tending his flock. Ravana beckoned to him, and, when be came 
gave him the Lingam to hold and warned him not to place it on the ground. The cowboy 
(he was Ganesha who had assumed this form) told Ravana that lie would hold the Lingam 
for one hour and no more. Ravana agreed and retired to a bush nearby but he took more 
than one hour to return. So Ganesha dropped the Lingam on the ground and disappeared. 
When Ravana came back, lie saw the Lingam sinking into the ground and caught hold 
of it. But the Lingam transformed itself into a cow and began to sink again ond ,c,t 
only its cars above ground. 

There is a place on the west coast of India called Gokamam (cow's car) and a temple 
there, dedicated to the Atmalingam. Thousands of devotees from the four comers Oi India 
visit the temple for the annual festival. 

Kumbiiakarna (Pot-Ear) 

Tills brother of Ravana was so named because his cars were like earthen pots- Kum* 
bhakama was eighty-four leagues in height and his body was as vast as a mountain. “ ,s 
breath was like whirl-wind and his speech like thunder. No palace in Lanka could accom- 
modate him and lienee he chose as his abode a spacious mountain cave. 

Like his brother Ravana, Kumbhakama also aspired for immortality and performed 
austerities to propitiate Brahma. It should be noticed that in every case a boon of immor- 
tality was granted to an Asura, there were certain conditions attached to it and the gous 
managed to find some loophole in the wording of the boon and made it ineffective. ~o 
Kumbhakama wanted a boon of unconditional immortality and told Brahma so, when this 
deity appeared before him. Brahma refused to grant such a boon and disappeared. Uus 
happened several times. At last the heat produced by the severity of Kumbhakama s 
penances became unbearable and the three worlds stood in danger of being burnt 
In this predicament Brahma asked Ills wife Sarasvati to enter into the tongue of Kumbha* 



ENEMIES OF THE GODS 


85 

kama and give it a twist when he next begged for the boon. As soon as Sarasvati took her 
place in Kumbhakama's mouth, Brahma appeared before him and asked him what he 
wanted. Kumbhakarna asked for ‘eternal life', but the twisted tongue stuttered 'eternal 
sleep*. "Granted," said Brahma, and the ambitious giant was condemned to eternal 
sleep. He pleaded for mercy and Brahma allowed him to wake up occasionally. 

While the battle for Lanka was raging, Ravana found it difficult to stem the tide of 
invasion and sent hosts of Rakshasas to wake up Kumbhakarna who was then slccpin" 
for nine months. The demons proceeded to Kumbhakama's cave and found him slum- 
bering, "drunk with sleep, vast as hell, his rank breath sweeping all before him, smelling 
of blood and fat.” Before waking up the eternal slumbcrcr, the Rakshasas prepared 
for him a dish of Pilau in which hundreds of buffaloes and deer were cooked with vast 
quantities of rice. The food was piled up as high as Mount Meru and then the demons 
started hurling rocks and tiees at Kumbhakarna so as to wake him up. But the breath 
of Pot-car blew off these missiles. The exasperated demons then started hacking him with 
axes but Pot-ear slept the harder. Then they drove thousands of elephants over his vast 
body and this had the desired effect. Pot-car at last yawned and woke up, and seeing 
food fell heartily to it. But he was dissatisfied with the fare and bitterly complained 
against his stingy brother for keeping him on a starvation diet. More animals were then 
massacred and cooked. Pot-car was now half-fed ; for the rest he was told that there 
were chances of getting an excellent feed on the battlc-fidd as a good number of mon- 
keys and bears had crossed over to Lanka. The prospect of getting such a feed drove off 
his sleep completely and he was now thoroughly roused. And with a roar that shook the 
three worlds Kumbhakarna ran to the scene of action. 

The very sight of Kumbhakarna frightened the monkeys. The giant caught the 
monkeys and bears in hundreds and began to devour them in easy mouthfuls. No missile 
could produce any effect on his hide. The monkeys fled in terror and even Hanuman, the 
most courageous of them, stood at a safe distance. Lakshman tried to arrest his march 
but could not succeed. At last Rama himself engaged him in action. After a severe 
contest Rama cut off one of Kumbhakama’s arms which in its fall destroyed many monkeys. 
"Then with a sacred shaft Rama cut away the other arm and with two kccn-cdgcd discs 
he cut away the demon’s legs and with a shaft of Indra he stmek away his head ; and 
he fell like a great hill and crashed down into the sea and the gods and heroes rejoiced." 


Shishupala 


Shishupala was the king of Chedi and a contemporary of Krishna. As soon as he 
was born he brayed like an ass. The infant had three eyes and four arms, and astrologers 
predicted that he would lose his third eye and extra arms at the sight of the man who wus 
destined to kill him later. The mother of Shishupala visited many of her fnends and 
relatives with the child, but no one deprived it of its extra eye and arms. One day, however, 
Krishna visited Chedi and as he took the child in his lap, the third eye of Shishupala dis- 
appeared together with the extra arms. The mother of the child then approached Krishna 
and made him promise to grant her a request. Krishna asked her to name her boon and 
she said: — "Promise me that if my son Shishupala offends you, you will forgive him. 
“Yes," replied Krishna, "if he offends me one hundred times, a hundred times will I forgive 
him.” 


Shishupala grew’ up and became a powerful king. Rukmini, daughter of the~king 
of Vidarbha, ivas betrothed to him but the lady loved Knshna and asked him to carry her 
away to Dwaraka. Krishna accordingly proceeded to Vidarbha with his. brother Bab- 



86 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


rama and a select party of soldiers, and carried away Rukmini on the day of her wedding. 
(Marriage by capture was a recognized form for Kshatriyas in ancient days.) This and 
many other incidents led to bitter enmity between Krishna and Shishupala, and although 
the latter offended Krishna many times he forgave him because oi the promise he had 
made to the queen of Chedi. Krishna forgave him one hundred times. Shishupala insulted 
him yet another time under the following circumstances and was killed by him. 

After the Pandavas had received half the kingdom from Dhritarashtra, Yudhish- 
tira was crowned king of Indraprastha, and for the coronation ceremony many neigh- 
bouring kings and chieftains were invited. For a particular ceremony one of the assembled 
dignitaries had to be named the chief guest, and Yudhishtira, on the advice of Bhishma, 
gave the place of honour to Krishna. Shishupala immediately got up and asked Yudhishtira 
on what grounds Krishna was chosen for the honour. Krishna was not a king, he said, 
nor the wisest, ablest or bravest among the assembled guests. If the honour were to go 
by age, Vasudeva, Krishna's father was there and he ought to have been preferred to his 
son ; if, by learning, Drona, the teacher of the Pandavas ought to have been chosen ; 
if treaty-alliances were of importance, Drupada, the father-in-law of the Pandavas was 
the proper person to be honoured ; if reverence were the criterion for the choice, Bhishma, 
the grandsire of the Pandavas, ought to have been preferred to Krishna. "Then on what 
grounds, Yudhishtira,” asked Shishupala, "did you choose this common fellow of deceitful 
nature, notorious for his low birth among cowherds ? I consider your choice as an insult 
to me and all the assembled guests." 

Many of the kings could very well appreciate the force of Shishupala’s argument, 
and they blamed Yudhishtira for his thoughtlessness. Then it was given out that Bhishma 
had suggested Krishna’s name, and the grandsire publicly acknowledged his responsibility 
in the matter and rebuked Shishupala for unnecessarily creating factions. Shishupala s 
wrath was now turned against Bhishma and he called the venerable old man a fool, a 
hypocrite and a reprobate. "While you pretend to remain celibate,” said Shishupala, you 
corrupt other men's wives. Is it not known in the three worlds that you captured the 
daughters of the king of Kasi from their father’s home on the day of marriage and too* 
them by force to Hastinapur ? Wc are not fools to believe your explanation that the ladies 
were intended for your half-brother Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya died childless ; then 
how did Ambika and Ambalika give birth to Dhritarashtra and Pandu? You are un- 
married because you are incapable of being faithful to the marriage-bed. Verily you are 
a fit companion for Krishna, the notorious seducer of the Gopis." 

Shishupala went on in this strain and the coronation ceremony was on the pom* 
of being interrupted by a factional fight. Then Krishna, no more able to bear the out- 
rageous language of Shishupala, threw his weapon, the discus, on him which cut him into 
two. 

Of Shishupala it is said, he hated Vishnu (Krishna) more than any other of his (Vish- 
nu’s) enemies did. He plotted Krishna’s ruin even in his sleep. But as his thoughts 
were always concentrated on Vishnu, albeit in spite, he went to heaven immediately after 
his death. 

With Kansa and Shishupala the cycle of births to which the warders Jaya and Vi jay a 
were condemned, was completed. 

Kala Yavana 

We have noticed in the second chapter that Krishna and his people had to desert 
their ancestral city, Mathura, and migrate to Dwaraka, a fortress they built in the sea 



ENEMIES OF THE GODS 


87 

for the purpose. Mathura was deserted because of the invasion of Kala Yavana. Jara- 
sandha, king of Magadha, had already laid siege to the city when Kala Yavana appeared 
at its gates with an army of three crores of Mlcchchas (barbarians). The two invaders 
joined their forces and Krishna fought seventeen battles with them at the end 0! which 
he was defeated and made to desert the city. 

After the migration to Dwaraka, Krishna collected an army of Yadavas (his own 
picked fighters) and engaged Kala Yavana in action. Krishna lost the battle and fled for 
life, pursued by his powerful foe. He was chased into the mountains and took refuge in 
the cave where Muchukunda was sleeping. 

This Muchukunda was the indomitable son of king Mandhata of the Ikshvaku race 
and had fought many battles for the gods when they had no general. On the birth of 
Kartikeya, Indra asked Muchukunda to take rest, and granted him a boon by which he 
could remain asleep till the descent of Vishnu to earth in his Avatar as Krishna. Indra 
also declared that the disturber of Muchukunda’s sleep would suffer instant death as penalty. 
After receiving the boon Muchukunda repaired to a mountain cave and fell asleep. 

Krishna now entered the cave and covered the sleeping Muchukunda with his own 
yellow robe and hid himself in a comer. Kala Yavana entered the cave, mistook Muchu- 
kunda for Krishna and gave him a severe kick. Muchukunda got up and Kala Yavana 
fell down dead. 

The origin of Kala Yavana is obscure. He was probably a foreign invader, as 
his name Yavana indicates. The Bhagbala says that he was sent by the sage Narada 
to aid the king of Magadha. Whatever Iiis origin, Kala Yavana has at present a number 
of devotees in India who worship him as a Deva (god) and call Krishna "an impious wretch, 
a merciless tyrant, and implacable and most rancorous enemy." 


Bhima and Baka 


While the Pandavas were living in Ekacliakra (Page 75), one day Kunti, saw their 
host, his wife and son beating their breasts and wailing. The good lady asked them why 
they were thus sorrowing and was told by the host that either himself or his son was to 
be sent the next day as a meal for a cannibal Asura named Baka. This demon lived in 
the forest and because of his unrestrained slaughter of the men, women and children of 
Ekachakra, the people of the town had implored him not to indulge in wanton destruction, 
and agreed to send him daily for breakfast a man with a cartload of cooked rice and vege- 
tables. Each house of the town had to send a man by turn, and now had come the turn 
of the house in which the Pandavas lived. 


The old Brahmin first offered to go himself. "I am an old man nearing death," 
said he to his son, "and it docs not matter whether I die tomorrow or a few days later. 
But you are young, my son, and have a life to Jive." 


But the young man would not permit his aged parent to be eaten alive by a cannibal, 
and as persuasions proved of no avail, it was decided to send the son to Baka. Kunti 
now told the Brahmin lady that she had five sons and it was only fair that she should send 
one of them to Baka in preference to the only son of her hostess. The : good people 
would not allow their guests to suffer on account of them but Kunti told them that her 
son Bhima was a match for any Asura and had. in fact, killed many Asuras stronger than 
Baka. She assured them that her son would kill Baka and nd the town of Ins tyranny 
once for all. So Bhima was sent with the cart of food to Baka. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS'W INDIA 

Bhima drove the cart into the forest with a light heart but, before reaching Baka 
; hungry. This son of Kunti was famous for his gluttony and is often referred to in the 
ihabkarata as Vrikodara (one with a wolfish hunger). Bhima unyoked the oxen, spread 
i meal before him and fell heartily to it. 

In the meantime Baka felt hungry and wondered why his breakfast was not coming, 
termined to teach the people of Ekachakra a lesson, he started towards that town, 
the way he saw Bhima at his breakfast, and from the cart and the nature of the fare 
mised that the meal had actually been meant for him. Baka, however, united for 
ima to finish eating because he could then eat Bhima himself and save the trouble of 
ing Bhima and the meal separately. 

When Bhima finished eating his meal, Baka rushed towards him with his mouth 
m like a cave. But Bhima took his club and knocked off the cannibal's teeth. The 
nt then uprooted a tree, and the two began to fight. The people of Ekachakra heard 
! roar of Baka and the clash of weapons, and came to see the combat. After a severe 
nbat Bhima killed the demon with his club and won the everlasting gratitude of the 
jple of Ekachakra. 

e Story of Kacha and Devayani 

There was a time when the gods did not know the art of bringing dead people back 
life. Ushanas (also called Shukra), the preceptor of the Asuras, knew the art, and so the 
liras who were killed in battle by the gods were brought back to life by Ushanas and 
ne again to fight with the gods. The gods took counsel among themselves and sent 
,cha, son of their priest Brahaspati, to Ushanas so that he might learn the art from the 
iceptor of the Asuras. 

Kacha went to Ushanas and revealed his identity to him with a frankness that pleased 
a and he accepted Kacha as his disciple. Kacha was a devoted and diligent pupil and 
teacher became very fond of him. Ushanas had a lovely daughter named Devayani 
1 the young Kacha served her as though her commands were those of the Guru himself, 
e conduct and bearing of Kacha were lovable and the young lady became much attached 
Slim ; and she missed him very much when he went out into the forest to tend his teacher’s 
:ks. 

Now the Asuras came to know of Kacha’s purpose in becoming the disciple of their 
jceptor, and decided to destroy him. So one day when Kacha was tending his master’s 
cks the Asuras fell upon him and killed him, cut his body into pieces and gave it to the 
Ives and jackals of the forest. When night came, the cows returned to the pen without 
,cha. And Devyani said to her father : "The sun has set, the evening fire is lit and 
; cattle have returned to the pen ; but Kacha is not come. O father, I will not live 
;hout Kacha. 1 ' 

Ushana meditated, and by the power of his meditation came to know that Kacha 
1 been killed by the Asuras and his body given to the jackals and wolves of the forest. 

: called out to Kacha to come to life, and Kacha came to life by tearing the bowels of the 
:kals and wolves and returned to his teacher. 

Next day, Kacha went to the forest, and while he was picking flowers for Devayani, 

; Asuras fell upon him and killed him. They ground his body to powder and dissolved 
in the seven seas. But when evening came and Kacha returned not, Devayani told her 
her that her lover was missing, and Ushanas called out to Kacha and brought him back 
life. 



PLATE XLV 





PLATE XLVI 



S3 DEVI 

(From Moot's Hindu Pantheon) 


134 


DURGA BEING WORSHIPPED BY THE GODS 
I From Mod's Hindu .Pauttceit) 









PLATE XLVIII 





" 'ENEMIES' OF THE GODS 


8g 

Tor la third time the Asuras' waylaid Kacha and killed him. This time they burnt 
his body, dissolved the ashes in wine and gave it to Ushanas to drink, and the unsuspecting 
sage 'drank the wine. When evening came and Kacha returned not, Devayani 'was grieved 
and told her father that she could not live without Kacha. Ushanas meditated, and by 
the power of his meditation came to know that Kacha was in his own stomach. Now he 
could not call Kacha back to life without killing himself. In this predicament Ushanas 
asked his daughter to choose between her father and lover. Devayani wanted both, and 
wept beating her breast and tearing her hair, 

' Kacha now spoke gently from the stomach of his teacher : “My teacher, I have 
served you for a thousand years now, and I have not disobeyed you in thought, word or deed 
all these years. Treat me as your own son and teach me now the art of bringing dead 
people .back to life; so that I may come out of your body and then restore you back to life." 

Ushanas admitted that this was the only way out of the difficulty and imparted to 
him the great secret. After that he asked Kacha to come out of his body and Kacha came 
out tearing the bowels of his teacher. Once he was out, he brought his teacher back to life. 

Now the time came for Kacha to return to the gods and he went to Devayani to 
take farewell of her. But Devayani would not let him depart. She loved him as her 
own life, could not think of living without him and said so. “It is only meet," said she, 
“that we should now be married according to the prescribed rites”. But Kacha could not 
think of marriage with her. He was devoted to her because she was his teacher’s daughter. 
"Thou art as a mother or sister unto me,” said he to Devayani. But she loved him to 
distraction and would not be pacified by anything short of marriage with Kacha ; and 
when Kacha ultimately refused, her love turned to hatred. “Kacha,” said she, "you 
owe' everything to me. • When you were slain by the Asuras it was I who persuaded my 
father to bring you back to life. It was because of me that you learnt the art of bringing 
dead people back to life, for I told my father that I could not live without you. And since 
you spurn my love, I now curse you, and the knowledge you have gained from my father 
shall be ineffective when used by you.” 

Kacha replied : "Your entreaties did not make me deviate from the path of virtue, 
and your threats cannot now intimidate me. Although through the power of your curse 
the knowledge of the charm of life has been rendered ineffective when used by me, I can yet 
impart the knowledge to others in whom it will be fruitful. My conduct in the whole affair 
has been honourable and I go back to my father with a clear conscience.” 

Kacha went back to the gods and was welcomed by them as the saviour of the race, 
and Indra bestowed many boons upon him. 

The story probably has its origin in matriarchal times when women proposed and 
husbands lived in the houses of their wives. The idea stressed again is the importance, of 
duty. Kacha, even at the risk of being thought callous and unchivalrous, breaks off with 
Devayani. She, on the other hand, tries to keep Kacha among her own people and on 
her failure to achieve the purpose makes an attempt to deprive him of his power to harm 
her own race. In the conflict, however, the man comes out triumphant. . 

. It may be added here that time healed the wound, and Devayani married a' king 
named Jajatf. ' • ' 

The Churning of the Milk-Ocean 

.The. sage Durvasa, a portion, of Shiva himself, .one day, attended. an assembly .of 


go 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


monarchs on earth and received from them a garland of flowers as a present. On his way 
back to the celestial regions the sage meditated on the relative merits of the various gods 
and came to the conclusion that Indra was the proper person to receive the garland from 
him. Accordingly, he took the garland to the king of the gods and presented it to him. 
Indra received the garland with a great show of humility, thanked the sage for the dis- 
tinguished favour and as soon as Durvasa departed gave it to one of his state elephants to 
play with. The elephant had not destroyed the garland out of recognition when Durvasa, 
as ill-luck would have it, returned to tell Indra something, and found the elephant playing 
with the garland. The angry sage immediately cursed Indra and all the gods under him 
to lose their energy and become as feeble as mortals. After pronouncing the curse he went 
back without even entering India's palace. 

Now Bali, king of the Asuras, declared war on the gods and marched on Amaravati 
with a huge army. The emaciated gods were no match for the Asuras and defeat appeared 
certain. So they proceeded to Shiva and narrated to him the story of their misfortune. 
Shiva was powerless against the curse of Durvasa and he conducted them to Brahma who, 
in his turn, conducted the troop to Vaikunta where Vishnu was sleeping on the serpent 
Ananta. They eulogized Vishnu singing his thousand names, and the god of preservation, 
hearing the melody of their voices woke up and asked the gods what they wanted. They 
told him the tale of their woe ; upon which Vishnu meditated and said that a dose of am- 
brosia, the cream of the milk-ocean, alone could restore them to their former state. 

No ordinary churning-stick could agitate the milk-occan sufficiently and the moun- 
tain Mandara had to be torn off and used as a churning stick. The gods alone could not 
lift the mountain nor twirl it in the ocean, and hence Vishnu asked Indra to declare a truce 
with the Asuras on their own condition, promise them an equal share in the ambrosia and 
thus obtain their labour for the churning of the ocean. Indra asked Vishnu whether it 
would be prudent to give the Asuras a share in the ambrosia as by feeding on it, the Asuras 
would become stronger than the gods ; upon which Vishnu told him to leave that to him. 

A truce was accordingly declared and the gods and the Asuras uprooted Mandara 
and placed it in the milk-ocean. Vast quantities of potent herbs were dropped into the 
ocean to flavour ambrosia. The gods then caught Vasuki, the huge serpent that lived in 
the nether regions and twisted him round the mountain as a churning rope. Vishnu asked 
the gods to man the head-end of the rope, but the Asuras suspected foul play and asserted 
their right to that side. So the gods took the tail-end, with the result that the hot breath 
that emanated from the mouth of Vasuki weakened the Asuras while the gods were in- 
vigorated by the cool breezes that blew from the ocean. 

As the churning progressed, the mountain began to sink into the muddy bottom 
of the sea and could not be twirled round. Vishnu now took the shape of a huge tortoise 
(Kurma Avatar) dived into the ocean and supported the mountain on his back. After 
this, things went merrily on. 

On the surface of the ocean began to appear one by one what are called 
the Chaturdasa Ratnam (fourteen precious things).. These were the moon (which 
Shiva took), the Parijata tree, the elephant Airavatam (both of which Indra claimed), 
the cow Surabhi or Kamadhenu (which was given to the seven Rishis), Varuni the goddess 
of vine with a howl of wine called Sura (which the gods drank), the Apsaras (who went 
to live with the Gandharvas), the white horse Uchchaisravas (which was given to Bali 
from whom it was taken by Indra after the defeat of Bali in the battle that followed the 
drinking of ambrosia), the goddess Lakshmi, a conchshcll, a mace, a jewel called Kaustubha 



ENEMIES OF THE GODS 


9 1 

{all of which Vishnu took) and Dhanwantari (the author of the Ayurveda system of 
medicine) with the bowl of ambrosia.* 

As soon as Dhanwantari appeared with the bowl of ambrosia, the gods and the 
Asuras left the churning rope and madly rushed towards the physician. In the scuffle, 
the Asuras succeeded in seizing the bowl, and they made away with it. But a quarrel 
broke out among the Asuras themselves on the question as to who should be served first. 
Then appeared in their midst a damsel of celestial beauty, with her face like a lotus in 
bloom, heaving breasts, waist like an island, and her person adorned with necklaces, bangles 
and anklets. She stepped merrily into the midst of the Asuras, her anklets jingling, and 
smiled sweetly on them. The Asuras now forgot all about ambrosia and stood wondering 
at the beauty of Mohini (such was the name of this form of Vishnu). Mohini threw her 
glances at the bowl of ambrosia, and a gallant Asura suggested that she should decide how 
to share ambrosia, and all the Asuras cheered him. Mohini smiled and asked them whether 
it would be prudent to leave such a momentous decision to a woman. "Wise men have 
said," said Mohini with a mischievous smile, "that women are unreliable.” All the 
Asuras laughed heartily and were now convinced without any doubt that she could be 
trusted, and swore that they would abide by her decision unconditionally. Mohini 
then remarked that the gods and Asuras had toiled equally hard in raising ambrosia 
and should get an equal share, and made them sit in two rows. She took the bowl and 
served the row of gods first. After the last god had been served Mohini disappeared with 
the bowl 1 

A terrible uproar ensued on her departure and the gods and the Asuras fought a 
fierce battle. But the gods who were strengthened by the draughts of ambrosia they had 
drunk, easily defeated the Asuras and put them to flight. 

One of the Asuras had disguised himself as a god and sat in the row of the gods. 
He had just quaffed a mouthful of ambrosia when Surya (sun) and Chandra (moon) who 
were sitting on either side of him detected the fraud and pointed him out to Vishnu. This 
deity immediately cut him into two with his weapon, but by virtue of the nectar he had 
drunk, both the portions of the demon remained animate and Brahma translated them 
into the heavens as planets. The upper portion is called Rahu and the other Ketu. It 
is said that Rahu is even now the mortal enemy of the sun and moon and that eclipses 
are caused by his trying to devour them. 

It may be added that Shiva became enamoured of the Mohini form of Vishnu 
and hence he went to Vaikunta and requested his compeer to assume that shape 
again. Vishnu obliged him but Shiva chased Mohini with the intention of doing violence 
on her; on this, Vishnu assumed his male form but the infatuated Shiva caught him 
embraced him and became one with him. 

The churning of the milk ocean is narrated in almost all the Puranas with slight 
modifications. Scholars interpret the myth in many ways. Some observe that it signifies 
an astronomic phenomenon and others that it indicates a prehistoric battle. There is as 
yet no satisfactory interpretation of this important myth. 

***** 


Christian and Muslim readers who are not familiar with the trend of Hindu religious 
thought might wonder why the gods found so much difficulty in overcoming their foes 


* Of the appearance of poison daring the churning, there are two versions ; one is that 
the ocean together with the Chaturdasa Ratnam, and the other that, under the strain of the pu 


poison floated on the surface of 
If. Vasuhi vomited it. 



92 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


and why ‘the great gods granted inconvenient boons to their adversaries. The answer 
is that unlike the Christian or Muslim God, Hindu gods are not omnipotent. Although in 
invocations gods are often addressed as omnipotent and their strength is over-emphasized, 
according to orthodox conceptions, the powers of the gods are limited. They are creatures 
and are subject to laws. The law embodied in the Veda is binding on Brahma, Vishnu 
and Shiva, and all the other gods. If an Asura or a man performs austerities according 
to the prescribed rules, the god has to grant the desired boon. If he does not, he wifi 
be punished by the law. Only the Supreme Being is above the law, and as regards That 
One, it is beside the point to ask if IT is inimical to the Asura ; the Asura is not separate 
from IT ; in fact, the Asuras and the gods find their fundamental oneness in IT. 



CHAPTER VII 


DEATH AND SOUL-WANDERINGS 

T HE mystery of death has been the most inspiring source of religious and metaphysical 
speculation. In fact religion can be broadly defined as man’s challenge to death. 
Something in man tells him that he is eternal and that death is a delusion or, more 
properly speaking, a revolution in existence as compared with the evolutionary process 
wc call life. _ The belief that death does not put an end to existence is fairly universal 
among mankind, though, to be sure, conceptions of after-life vary from gross superstitions 
to beliefs which are almost scientific. Dreams and psychic phenomena also confirm man's 
faith in an after-life and an invisible world where spirits move and hold communion with 
the sub-conscious mind. 

Among the followers of the great organized religions of the world, the after-life is 
differently understood by the masses and the intellectuals. Take, for instance, Christianity. 
The Christian theologians conceive the next world as a realm of values above time and 
space where individuality survives death in a way incomprehensible to the intellect but 
perceivable by the spiritually gifted. But to make this conception intelligible to the com- 
mon people, the realm of values is ruthlessly spatialized and hence we get the popular 
Christian belief in a geographical heaven, a kingdom where the good enjoy everlasting 
bliss, and a hell where the wicked arc tormented by devils. 

The same distinction between higher and lower conceptions regarding death and 
after-life is met with in Hinduism too. According to Advaita (the predominating school 
of Hindu philosophy) death is an illusion. “Aham Brahmam Asmi” (I myself am 
Brahm) or "Tat Twam Asi” (You arc That One), says the Advaitin. But all people, the 
Hindus hold, cannot realize this identity of the individual with Reality. Moreover, the 
Hindus are quite alive to the mischief such a philosophy of life is capable of making among 
the generality of mankind, and hence for the benefit of the common people a more practical 
form of religion is preached. And in this religion, the need for la; vs of ethics is stressed and 
warning of punishments after death for evil-doers and promise of rewards for good people 
are held out. 

In the Vedic times religious speculation had only just begun, and we find no traces 
in the Rig Veda of a belief in the transmigration of souls. The Aryans, who performed 
the prescribed sacrifices properly and kept the laws, went, after death, to the heaven of 
Indra. The Vedic heaven is a place of joy, "where wishes and desires are, where the region 
of the sun is, where food and delights are found.” “There the noise of flutes and song 
resounds and Soma, Ghee and honey flow.” The souls of the pious are conducted to 
heaven by the god Pushan. The people who enjoy the bliss of heaven are those who 
perform sacrifices and reward the priests ; “for sacrifices and sacrificial fee are indissolubly 
connected." Heroes who risk their lives in battle also go to heaven. 

In the Rig Veda there are but vague references to hell. It is hinted that the wicked 
after death are cast into regions of darkness. In the Atharva Veda, however, we come 
across clear references to hells and torture-chambers. 

The only verse in the Rig Veda which can be said to embody the doctrine of metem- 
psychosis is the following one which is found in a hymn addressed to the departing 
soul. 

93 



94 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


" The sun receive thine eye, the wind thy spirit ; 
go as thy merit is, to earth or heaven. 

Go, if it be thy lot, unto the water ; 
go make thine house in plants with all thy members.” 

The verse, however, does not necessarily point to the doctrine of metempsychosis 
but is more or less indicative of the dissolution of the body into its elements. The general 
trend of thought in the Rig Veda suggests a belief in Paradise as a place of reward and 
annihilation as punishment. 

Yama, according to Rig Vedic conceptions, is in charge of heaven and not of hell. 
References indicate that he was the first man who died and went to heaven. Yami is said 
to be his wife in some accounts, and sister in others. 

In the Atharva Veda and the Brahntanas attached to the Vedas, we find clear defini- 
tions of hell. The Naraka Loka of the Atharva Veda is "the abode of female goblins and 
sorceresses, the place of blind or black darkness.” In the Satapatha Brahmana hell is 
referred to as a place where "men cut up men and men eat men.” The Kausitaka Brahmana 
says that "the animals man eats in this world will devour him in the next.” 

The doctrine of metempsychosis is emphasized in the TJpanishads, the codes and 
all later works. The conception is tinged with animism which was prevalent among the 
aborigines whom the Aryans conquered, and probably also among the foreign invaders 
who later fought successful wars with the Aryan settlers. When the doctrine of metem- 
psychosis gained ground, the older Vedic beliefs were not, however, entirely discarded. 
What happened was a compromise, and souls that did not attain liberation were sent for a 
period to heaven or hell, and then again made to undergo births "into a good or bad form 
as a Brahmin, warrior or householder, or as a dog, pig or Chandala.” The Kausitaka 
Upanishad, however, "sends all souls to the moon and then allows some to go by the path 
of the gods to Brahma ; while the others who have been proved wanting return to earth 
in such form as befits their merit, either as a worm, or fly, or bird, or lion, or boar, or tiger, 
or serpent, or man, or something else,” The codes and the Puranas accept this dual system 
of punishment or rewards as the most authoritative. 

While the general belief is that as soon as a man is conducted to Yama, Chitragupta, 
who registers all actions of men and women, reads out a full account of his deeds and 
strikes a balance which decides whether the man deserves punishment or reward, there is 
a school of thought which holds the view that a balance is not struck but rewards and 
punishments run on parallel lines ; that is, after a man is tortured for his bad actions he 
is taken to heaven where he is allowed to enjoy the fruit of his good deeds. 

Hells 

The number of hells are in some accounts said to be seven, each one set apart for 
torturing a particular kind of sinner. The Bhagbata, however, names twenty-eight hells 
and describes most of them in detail. 

The hell called Tamisra is a region of darkness where robbers and adulterers are 
tortured by Yama’s servants. 

Selfish persons and egotists go to Andhatamisra, the hell of greater darkness. 

Those who wantonly hurt creatures are put into the hell called Raurava where Ruru 
("an animal more cruel than serpents”) tears them to pieces without killing them. 



DEATH AND SOUL-WANDERINGS 


95 


Cruel men are cast into Kumbhipaka and boiled in oil. 

Kalasutra is the hell reserved for Brahminicidcs. Its bottom is a burning furnace 
and ceiling a frying pan. The sinner has to endure agonies in this hell "for as many years 
as there are hairs on the body of the beasts." 

Heretics are tortured in Asipatravana where the servants of Yama tear their bodies 
with the sharp edges of the branches of the palmyra palm (the branch of this palm has two 
saw-like edges). 

Kings who oppress their subjects are crushed between two rollers in the hell called 
Sukramukha. 

Those who kill mosquitoes, bugs and other blood-sucking insects are cast into An- 
dhakupa where the main torture is sleeplessness. 

Inhospitable people and selfish householders are transformed into worms and thrown 
into the hell called Krimibhojana, full of worms, where they eat one another. 

For the sin of simony, souls are tom to pieces by red hot pincers in the hell called 
Taptasurmi. 

Those who marry outside their caste are made to embrace red-hot human forms 
in the hell called Vajrakantaka. 

Sexual perverts are cast into a sea of burning filth and made to undergo various 
kinds of perverted tortures. 

The person who gives false evidence is taken by the emissaries of Yama to the top 
of a mountain and hurled into Avichimat. They take liim again to the mountain-top and 
throw him down into the pit, for how many times, it is not mentioned. 

Misers are taken to the hell called Suchimukha wnere steel wires with sharp pro- 
jections are woven round their bodies like cocoons. 

Kings and ministers who sow dissension among religious teachers are, after death, 
thrown into Vaitarani. "The Vaitarani river is like an entrenchment going round all the 
infernal regions. In this river, fed on by aquatic animals, they (the souls in torment) do 
not die ; but remembering their disastrous acts, they are cast into that stream, which is 
full of excreta, urine, pus, blood, hairs, nails, bones, fat, flesh and marrow and the sinners 
are boiled there.” 

"There are hundreds and thousands of hells in the abode of Yama," says the Bhag- 
bala. These hells are situated in the nether regions "underground to the south above 
water". Yama is in charge of all of them. As god of death he has two functions. To 
judge souls (in which capacity he is known as Dharmaraja) and to mete out punishments. 

How to Defeat Yama 

Some of the Puranas speak of devotion as the surest means of obtaining salvation. 
Even a mechanical recital of the names of Vishnu or Shiva is considered of great merit. A 
story is told of Ajamila, a sinful Brahmin, who was saved from the clutches of Yamas 
emissaries by his merely uttering "Narayana”, a name of Vishnu. 

Ajamila lived in open sin with a Sudra harlot and broke all the law's sacred to his 
caste. He never read the Vedas and never performed a sacrifice. Persuaded by the harlot 
he deserted his aged parents and supported the woman and himself by ill-gotten wealth. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


96 

The harlot bore him ten sons and Ajamila was. very fond of the youngest whose name was 
Narayana. 

Now the time came for the sinner to die and even while he was gasping Ajamila 
was thinking of his youngest son. When the emissaries of Yama approached, he called 
out to his son, “Narayana, Narayana”. Now Vishnu heard a man in distress calling out 
his name and immediately despatched his deputies to help him. They arrived at the house 
of Ajamila and seeing the grisly servants of Yama with ropes and chains in their hands, 
asked them what they wanted. Yama’s emissaries told Vishnu's deputies that Ajamila 
had broken all the laws of God and man and that the time had come lor the sinner’s soul 
to be taken to hell for torment ; upon which they were told that Ajamila had expiated for 
all his sins by uttering the name of Vishnu on his death-bed. Yama's servants were not 
quite convinced and there followed a long argument between the two parties, at the end 
of which it was agreed that the matter should be referred to Yama himself. Accordingly 
the emissaries of Yama went back to their master and reported the matter to him. Yama 
said that the deputies of Vishnu were right and that he, Yama, had no power over one who 
uttered the name of Vishnu on his death-bed. 

Ajamila who happened to hear the conversion between the deputies of Yama and 
Vishnu, recovered from his illness on the departure of Yama's emissaries. He repented 
of his sins, gave up the pleasures of the world and retired into a forest where he lived the 
life of a hermit and obtained liberation. 

A recital of the names of Slrva is no less meritorious. A robber was taken, after 
death, to Dharmaraja, and Chitragupta, the record-keeper of Yama's office, read out an 
account of all his deeds. It was a long list of heinous crimes and not a single good deed 
could be found in his favour. Chitragupta, however, revealed the fact that the robber, 
while plying his nefarious trade used to unwittingly invoke Shiva as “Hara” (a name of 
Shiva) while crying out “Ahara” (bring the booty) and “Prahara” (strike). On hearing 
this, Yama said he had not only atoned for all his misdeeds by the invocation but had 
acquired much merit, and judged him to be reborn as a king. 

A fly in a temple of Shiva was reborn as the sage Pulaha, a son of Brahma. 

Kubera, the god of wealth, was a robber in a former life. One night while he was 
robbing a temple of Shiva, the wick with which he was looking for booty went out and 
he had to light it ten times ; by the merit of which act, he was reborn as the god of 
wealth 1 

The story of Markandeya is still more wonderful. Markandeya was an ardent 
devotee of Shiva and used to worship in Benares a Lingam of Shiva day and night. In the 
Book of Destiny, maintained in Yama’s office, his life w r as recorded as sixteen years. At 
the end of this period the servants of Yama came to Benares to take away the devotee to 
Yamapuri. Markandeya saw the evil messengers and clung to the Lingam of Shiva. 
They did not dare to touch the Lingam and hence went back to Yama and reported the 
failure of their mission ; upon which Yama came in person and, as he found it difficult 
to disentangle Markandeya from the Lingam, bound the devotee and the Lingam together 
with a rope. Shiva immediately appeared on the spot, kicked the god of death to death, 
and indulged in one of his wild dances. 

By the death of Yama and the consequent immortality of all beings, the world was 
plunged into misery and, at the request of the gods, .Yama was brought back to life. 



PLATE XLIX 

DIVINE MOTHERS 



HHESWARI 


PndukLottai Museum 
{Phetos : E. S. Mahal in gam) 


M3 


VARAHI 






PLATE LI 



147 GUARDIANS OF THE UNIVERSE 

Column 1. Top to bottom: Nimta, Yam a, Agni. 

2. .. Vanina, Brahma, Ananta, Irulra. 

3. „ „ Vayu, Kubera, Isant. 

(From Pictures 0/ Indian .Uj ths 6* Legends) 





DEATH AND SOUL-WANDERINGS 


97 


Cremation and Shraddhas 

There is as yet no agreement among scholars as to how the custom of cremating 
people originated. It is widely held that burial preceded cremation, and that there was 
a time when mankind did not even know the art of burial and dead bodies were just thrown 
to wild animals. To this day there are communities who dispose of the dead in a similar 
manner. Dr. Rajendralal Mitra, in his interesting book Jndc-Aryans, opines that dogs 
were first tamed and trained for the purpose of eating corpses and points to many customs 
which establish a curious connection between death and the dog. Some communities in 
India and elsewhere show the dead body to a dog before taking it for final disposal. Among 
the Hindus there is a belief that the dog is capable of seeing the emissaries of Yama, and 
hence the howl of a dog is considered inauspicious in a sick man’s house. Yama himself 
is attended by two dogs called Saramcyas. 

In the Rig Veda there are traces of Aryans having once been a burying people. It 
seems even wives, horses and attendants were buried alive with a man to keep him company 
during his journey to the other world. By the time the Aryans settled down permanently 
in India, the custom was given up. Usages symbolic of the prc-Vedic rite persisted, and a 
wife was taken upto the grave of her husband and conducted back to her house. A 
sword or ornament was buried with the dead body. The ancient custom was, however, 
revived in the middle a®es, when widows were burnt alive -with their husbands. Sati was 
partially stopped b> Akbar and totally prohibited by William Bentinck. 

It is not known from what source the Indo-Aryans learnt the art of cremation. 
Although, under t! e influence of Christianity and Islam, in Europe and the major part of 
Asia people bury their dead, there was a time when cremation was the most common form 
of disposing of the J ad body in these continents. Burial among Christians and Muslims 
is connected with a belief in resurrection and cremation among the Hindus is symbolic 
of the dissolution of tne body into the elements or liberation. 

The following are the injunctions laid down for the performance of the cremation 
ceremony among the Hindus : 

*' A dying man, when no hopes of his surviving remain, should be laid on a bed of 
Kusa ( Poa Cynosuroides) grass in the open air, his head sprinkled with water from the 
Ganges, and smeared with clay brought from the same river. A Shaligrama (a peculiarly 
shaped sacred stone) should be placed near him, holy strains from the Vedas should be 
chanted aloud, and leaves of holy basil scattered over his head. 

"When he expires, the corpse must be washed, perfumed, and decked with wTeaths 
of flowers, and carried by the nearest relations to some spot in the forest, or near water ; 
the funeral pile is lighted from the consecrated fire maintained by the deceased ; the nearest 
relation applies the flaming brand to the pile, hung round with flow-ers and the attendant 
priests recite the appropriate invocations: — '‘Fire! thou v'ast lighted by him ; may he 
therefore be reproduced from thee, that he may attain the regions of celestial bliss. May 
this offering be auspicious." All who follow the corpse walk round the pile, but may not 
view the fire ; they then proceed to the river and, after bathing, present oblations of water 
from the joined palms of their hands to the manes of the deceased, saying, ‘May 
this oblation reach thee." Elegiac verses, such as the following, are then recited— 
*(i) Foolish is he who seeks for permanence in the human state ; insolid, like the stem of 
the plantain tree ; transient, like the foam of the sea. (2) When a body formed of five 
dements, to receive the reward of deeds done in its own former person, reverts to its five 
original principles, what room is there for regret ? {3} The earth is perishable ; the ocean. 



9 8 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


the gods themselves, pass away. How should not the bubble, mortal man, meet destruc- 
tion ? (4) All that is low must finally perish ; all that is elevated must ultimately fall ; 
all compounded bodies must end in dissolution ; and life be concluded with death/’ 

Death on the banks of the Ganges or in the waters of the river is considered good 
for the departing soul. 

The Hindus believe that the dead and the living stand in an intimate relationship 
and the actions of the one can influence the destiny of the other. Departed ancestors can 
cause prosperity to their progeny living on earth by performances of austerities or devo- 
tions. Similarly the tortures of souls in hell can be mitigated by the pious acts of mortals 
expressly dedicated for the purpose. We have already seen in a previous chapter that the 
mother-in-law of Yama was saved from hell by the performance of a sacrifice by a relative 
who was living on earth. In the code of Manu the necessity for performance of Shraddhas 
(ceremonies for the deceased) is emphasized. "Let the housekeeper,” says Manu, "who 
knows his duty perform each day a Shraddha with boiled rice and the like or with water or 
with milk, Toots and fruits ; for thus he obtains favour from departed progenitors.” The 
main item oi the Shraddha is the feeding of Brahmins and giving them presents. Clothes 
and food given to Brahmins on this occasion are believed to reach the departed souls. If 
the Shraddha is performed for a woman, presents are given to a Brahmin woman.* 

The goddess of funeral obsequies is Swadha. She lives among the manes and carries 
to them the offerings of mortals. 

Arjuna’s Journey in Search of a Dead Child 

While Krishna was the virtual ruler of Dwaraka there came, one day, to the gates 
of his palace a Brahmin with a dead child in his arms. He cried out that in a kingdom 
where Brahmin children died, a king had no right to rule. He had nine children, he said, 
all of whom had died in infancy. He started cursing Krishna and called him an impious 
and impotent ruler. Arjuna, who was sitting in the palace with Krishna heard the impre- 
cations of the Brahmin and went down to the gate and tried to console him. He promised 
the Brahmin that he would make it his personal care to see that his next child would not 
perish. The Brahmin was sceptical and wanted to know who he was who could promise 
to do a thing which Krishna and Balarama could not. Arjuna told him that he was the 
third son of Kunti, the redoubtable bowman famed for his marksmanship in the three 
worlds, the proud possessor of the celestial bow Gandiva. And as an assurance to the 
Brahmin he swore that if he could not protect his next child he would burn himself to 
death. The Brahmin thanked him and went home. 

The Brahmin's wife conceived for the tenth time, and for her confinement Arjuna 
constructed an impregnable chamber of arrows through which neither god nor man could 
enter. And when the day for delivery came he stood guard over the apartment. But 
alas I a few minutes after the birth of the child, it disappeared mysteriously. 

The bitterness of the Brahmin's disappointment now knew no bounds. Till now, 
he had at least the privilege of seeing the bodies of his children, dead or alive, but now even 
this pleasure was denied to him. He abused Arjuna, called him an imposter and a braggart, 
and reviled himself for believing that such a wretch could do things Krishna and Balarama 
could not. Arjuna, however, left the Brahmin to wail, and proceeded by the power of 
Samjamani Yoga of which he was a master, to Yamapuri, the abode of the dead. The child 
was not there. Thence he went to the heaven of Indra and to the kingdoms of Agni, Nirritas, 

• Detailed descriptions of Shraddhas will be found in the author’s work Hindu Religion Customs and Manners. 



DEATH AND SOUL-WANDERINGS 


99 

the Moon, Vayu and Varuna^ The child was in none of these upper regions. He then 
searched in vain for the child in the underground regions of serpents and Asuras. Baffled, 
he returned to earth and decided to bum Iiimself to death. But Krishna now asked Arjuna 
not to immolate himself and said that he would show him the dead child. 

Krishna ascended his magic car with Arjuna and drove in the westerly direction. 
They drove over the seven oceans and the seven islands and reached the kingdom of Night. 
Krishna pierced the primal gloom with his discus and illuminated the regions of Night. 
Guided by this light they crossed the kingdom of Night and came upon the kingdom of 
Waters. Reaching this region the car dived downwards and halted near a celestial man- 
sion where the pilgrims saw the great Vishnu reposing on the snake Ananta with the ten 
children of the Brahmin on his lap. Krishna and Arjuna worshipped the deity and begged 
him to give them the children of the Brahmin. Vishnu smiled and blessed them. He told 
Krishna that he (Krishna) was a portion of himself and that he (Vishnu) had purposely 
taken the children of the Brahmin to Vaikunta so that he could have the pleasure of this 
visit. He gave the children to Arjuna, and this hero and Krishna took leave of Vishnu, 
returned to earth and gave over the children to the Brahmin who prayed for mercy for his 
past misconduct. 

The Story of Satyavan and Savitri 

Once upon a time there lived a king named Aswapati. The king was virtuous and 
generous but he had no sons. So, for eighteen years he worshipped Savitri (Sarasvati, 
wife of Brahma, who is also called Savitri) with incessant devotion and the goddess appeared 
before him and asked him to name his boon. The king asked for sons. "Thou shalt be 
blessed with a daughter," said the goddess, "and she shall be greater than a son." Saying 
this she disappeared. 

In due time the queen gave birth to a daughter and she was named Savitri in honour 
of the goddess whose gift she was. Savitri grew up and when she reached maidenhood she 
looked like the goddess of beauty herself. The young princess was the object of adoration 
of the people, but because of her celestial bearing and beauty no man dared to ask for her 
hand. When Savitri's time for marriage came and no suitor appeared, Aswapati sent his 
daughter with a royal escort to travel in the neighbouring kingdoms so that she could choose 
a husband for herself. Savitri travelled far and wide but she fell in love with no one she saw. 
At last she wandered into a forest hermitage and there saw the man of her choice. He 
was Satyavan, son of the blind king Dyumatsena who, driven out of his kingdom by an 
usurper, was living in the forest among the hermits. Satyavan was handsome and brave 
and, though he lived the life of a hermit, on his person were the auspicious marks of royalty. 

Savitri returned to her father and related to liim the story of her travels at the end 
of which she confided to him the name of the person she had chosen for her lord. The 
sage Narada was present in the court at the time, and the king asked him if he approved of 
the match. The sage told him that Satyavan was brave, virtuous and handsome and had 
all the qualities of a great man in abundance, but was a doomed in an. "Next year, this 
day," said Narada, "Satyavan is destined to die”. On hearing this the king was alarmed 
and told his daughter to choose another husband. “Father," said Savitri, "I have but one 
soul and that is given away to Satyavan. I can’t take it back. Hence whether his life be 
long or short, I will wed Satyavan and no one else.” 

The sage Narada, observing the constancy of the princess, advised the king to give 
her in marriage to Satyavan and leave the rest to God. He blessed Savitri, assured the 



100 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS 0E INDIA 

king that everything would turn out lor the best, and departed to the celestial regions. 

The king then took Savitri to the hermitage of Dyumatsena, gave her in marriage 
to Satyavan according to the prescribed rites and returned to his kingdom. 

Savitri lived with her husband and his father in the hermitage. She was particularly 
kind and obedient to the old man. Her cheerful disposition and virtuous nature won for 
her the good opinion of the neighbours and in course of time she became the pet of the 
hermits who lived in the forest. But gay and smiling as she was to all outward appearances, 
Savitri's soul was heavy-laden because of the prophecy of Narada. She was counting 
the days and nights and her anxiety increased as the dreadful day approached. She did 
not, however, confide the secret to her husband. 

At last the fateful day dawned. Savitri got up early, performed all the religious 
ceremonies of the morning, and prepared the meal for the family. After breakfast, Satyavan 
took his axe and told Savitri that he was going into the forest to cut wood ; upon which 
she said that she would like to accompany him that day and asked for the old man's per- 
mission. At first Dyumatsena was reluctant to let her go out, but she entreated him with 
great earnestness and lie yielded. “Because,” lie said, “Savitri is about a year here now 
and has never asked of me any favour.” 

So Satyavan and Savitri went together into the forest. Satyavan appeared some- 
what melancholy and Savitri walked behind him, sad but vigilant. The pair wandered 
far into the woods and at last Satyavan chose a tree and he made the wood resound with 
his hatchet. He had been at work for a short while when a thrill of agony shot through 
his temples and he called out to Savitri. She was watching him and immediately ran to 
him. Satyavan fainted and fell on the ground and Savitri placed his head on her lap and 
sat there, determined, with tears rolling down her checks. 

Suddenly there appeared before her a grisly form, bright yet obscure, dressed in 
blood-red garments, wearing a crown. He had coppery eyes and bore a noose in his hand. 
Savitri stood up and with joined hands asked him respectfully who he was. “I am Yama, 
god of death,” said he. And without another word he tore the soul out of Satyavan’s 
body, put the noose round its neck and proceeded with it towards the south. Savitri 
followed the god of death. After going some distance Yama looked back and saw Savitri. 
“Woman," said he, "why dost thou follow me?” "God of justice," said Savitri, “your 
worship knows the sacred laws better than I. It is written in the scriptures that a husband 
and wife arc one and even death has no power to part them. I will follow my lord wherever 
he goes.” 

“Thy words,” said Yama, “plcascth me. And thy devotion to thy husband is 
praiseworthy. Ask thou, therefore, any favour of me except the life of thy husband.” 

Savitri asked for the restoration of the eyesight of her father-in-law and this was 
granted. Yama then asked Savitri to return, and himself continued the journey with the 
soul of Satyavan. He had not gone far when he looked back again and saw the sad, lonely 
figure of Savitri following him. Pitiless as he is, Yama was moved by the devotion of the 
lady and he asked her again to name a boon. She asked for the restoration of his kingdom 
to Dyumatsena. “Be it so," said Yama, and he commanded Savitri to return, and con- 
tinued his journey. Yama travelled far, far into the regions of twilight and Savitri followed 
him. As he was passing the regions of twilight Yama looked back again and was astonished 
to see Savitri. The daring and the devotion of the woman were worthy of another boon. 
“Savitri,” said he, "you are wandering into forbidden regions and your people will be 



DEATH AND SOUL-WANDERINGS 


101 


sorrowing for you. Where your husband goes you cannot go. So ask for a final boon 
except the life of your husband and then you must really depart/’ 

Savitri asked for a hundred sons for herself and Yama granted her the boon. "But, 
my lord,” said Savitri, "how can I have sons without my husband ? It now becomes 
incumbent on you to grant me the life of my husband 1” 

Yama reflected, and remarked that she was a true and brave woman. He loosed 
the cord that bound Satyavan, gave him back to Savitri, blessed her and sent her back. 

Satyavan now woke up as if from sleep and seeing that night had fallen and they 
were still in the forest was much upset. "Savitri,” he said, "I have boon sleeping rather 
long; why did you not wake me up? Besides I had strange dreams of a grisly form 
that put a noose round my neck and dragged me towards the south.” Savitri smiled and 
told him all that had happened. 

They then returned to the hermitage where Dyumatsena was anxiously waiting for 
them. He had regained his eyesight. As soon as Savitri and Satyavan reached the her- 
mitage a messenger arrived from Dyumatsena 's capital who informed the king that the 
usurper had been assassinated by the people and they were waiting for Dyumatsena to 
return to his kingdom and rule over them. 

The Last Journey of the Pandavas 

After the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas ruled the kingdom for thirty-six years. 
Then old age came upon the heroes. So they chose a successor, and, with Draupadi the 
queen, set forth on their last journey. The five heroes and the queen travelled towards 
the North, determined to cross the forests and the great mountains and reach the abode 
of the gods or perish in the attempt. A lean dirty dog followed them on their journey. 

The way was long and the journey perilous, and one by one the heroes collapsed 
on the road. It was not for all to ascend to heaven in the flesh ; this honour was reserved 
for Yudhishtira the only one among the Pandavas who was comparatively sinless. 
Draupadi, Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Bhima perished on the road and Yudhishtira 
was left alone with the dog. The king left the dead to bury the dead and continued 
his lonesome journey without ever looking back. He travelled over mountains, forests 
and rivers and reached regions never seen by mortals. Then suddenly there appeared 
before him Indra with his celestial car. The king of the gods told Yudhishtira that he 
had come in person to conduct him to the celestial regions because there never lived a 
man so great and virtuous as Yudhishtira. Indra begged him to enter the car. Yudhi- 
shtira now told Indra that without his brothers and Draupadi he would not enter heaven. 
Their part in the great struggle, he said, had been even greater than his and they deserved 
to be in heaven before himself. Indra assured the king that, though they could not be 
taken to heaven in the flesh, their souls had already been transferred to the abode of the 
blessed. Yudhishtira then saw the dog. It was standing near the car looking expectantly 
at the king. The great king now stood back and beckoned to the dog to enter the car. 
The grateful creature wagged its tail and approached the door of the car, when Indra 
objected. The dog is considered an unclean animal by the Hindus and^ Indra could not 
imagine its polluting his car, much less its being taken to heaven. “King of the gods,” 
said Yudhishtira, “this loyal creature has followed me throughout my perilous journey 
and now I cannot desert it. We either enter the car together or remain outside. This 
is final.” In all his life Yudhishtira had not deserted a companion nor refused sanctuary 
to the supplicant. He would not now give up his principles for the hope of heaven itself. 



102 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS Of INDIA 


The test was over. The dog now transformed itself into Dharmaraja (the god 
of judgment and father of Yudhishtira) and lie blessed his son and asked him to enter 
the car. The king now entered the car and Indra drove him to heaven, where, strangely 
enough, he saw most of his enemies killed in the battle and none of his allies. He asked 
Indra where his friends were and was told that they were in hell. Yudhishtira refused 
to enter heaven and requested Indra to conduct him to hell. He was taken up to the gates 
of hell and lie saw souls in torment and heard familiar voices crying out in agony. "King 
of the gods,” said Yudhishtira, "I cannot understand the justice of this. I am no doubt 
a mortal and the ways of the gods are not known to me. Anyway, since all my friends 
who fought on my side are in hell, I prefer to dwell here rather than enjoy the bless of 
heaven with my enemies,” 

The supreme test was over. This vision of heaven and hell was an illusion created 
by Indra. Yudhishtira was, however, taken up to the gates of hell because he had once 
spoken an untruth (sec page 7 9) ; besides no king could ever go to heaven without having 
a vision of hell as ruling a kingdom is considered practically impossible without committing 
some sin or other. The brothers and allies of Yudhishtira were really in heaven and the 
king was finally taken there and given a place of great honour. 



CHAPTER VIII 


LOVE AND SEX 

L n T E ^ r 0 o- of Tr hf ; G rr eks and Cu P id of the Latins, Kama is the Hindu god of Jove 
In the Ktg Veda, Kama (literally, desire) is described as the "first movement that 
arose in the One, after it had come into life through the power of fervour or abs- 
traction. In one hymn the god is thus addressed : "May Kama, having well-directed 
the arrow, which is winged with pain, barbed with longing, and has desire for its shaft 
pierce thee in the heart." It is in this capacity that he appears in the Puranas and his 
main function is to create sexual desire in men and women. He wounds his victims by 
shafts of flowers. The bow of Kama is the sugarcane and the string of the bow is made 
of humming bees. 

His wife is Rati (passion). His friend Vasanta (spring) strings the bow for Kama 
and selects the shafts : 

“ He bends the luscious cane, and twists the string 
With bees, how sweet 1 but ah 1 how keen their sting 1 
He with five flowTets tips thy ruthless darts. 

Which through five senses pierce enraptur’d hearts : 

Strong Chumpa, rich in odorous gold ; 

Warm Amer, nurs’d in heavenly mould ; 

Dry Nagkeser, in silver smiling ; 

Hot Kitticum, our sense beguiling ; 

And last, to kindle fierce the scorching flame. 

Love's shaft, which bright Bela name." 

Because of his predilection for these five flower-shafts, Kama is also known as Panchabana 
(he who possesses five shafts). 

Kama enjoys everlasting youth and is the most handsome of all the gods. The 
parrot is his charger and his banner is distinguished by the sign of the Makara — a mythical 
fish. 

Kama is the son of Brahma. As soon as he was bom he let loose a shaft on his 
father and the Creator fell in love with his own daughter. Hindu scriptures describe in 
detail the mischief done by the god of love among the gods and men. He roams about 
woodlands, fountains, cities and villages on errands of love, creates desire in ascetics and 
causes weakness in virtuous women. Spring is the season of his revelry. When the mango 
tree blossoms and the Koil calls to its mate, when forests and gardens resound with the 
music of the black bee, the archer begins his depredations. Wounded by the shafts of 
Kama, faithful wives become adulterous, young ladies yield themselves to betrayers and 
youthful men commit follies. Lean Rishis practising austerities give up asceticism and 
run after women. Countless indeed are the frivolities of the god of love. 

We have noticed elsewhere how Kama interrupted the asceticism of Shiva and was 
consumed by the fire that emanated from the third eye of that deity. The Vamana Puranct 
observes that the shaft of Kama had its effect and Shiva wandered over the three worlds 
unable to bear the passion Kama had generated. Shiva first repaired to the cool shades 
of a forest, but, far from getting relief, his passion was inflamed by the sight of the wives 
of the hermits living there. He then remained immersed in COTd'Water.'but this only boiled 

103 



104 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

the water. Unable to get solace anywhere Shiva at last married Parvati in whose embrace 
he found relief. 

After the death of Kama, the worlds became arid deserts devoid of love, and the 
gods requested Shiva to bring him back to life. Rati prayed to Parvati in particular and 
this lady pleaded for the widow, and Shiva agreed to restore Kama to life. Accordingly 
the god of love was bom as Pradyumna, son of Krishna and Rukmini. 

As soon as Pradyumna was bom Narada went to an Asura named Shambhara and 
informed him that Pradyumna was destined to kill him. Shambhara, by his magic powers, 
entered the apartments of Rukmini, stole the child and threw it into the sea. A fish swal- 
lowed the child. The fish was caught by a fisherman and sold to Shambhara. Rati had 
already assumed the form of a mortal woman and had been living in Shambhara’s house- 
hold as cook as previously advised by Narada. The fish was given to Rati for cooking, 
and when she cut it open Pradyumna came out of its belly. Narada immediately appeared 
on the scene and told Rati who the child was and granted her a boon by which she could 
make the child invisible at will. So, Rati nursed Pradyumna and he grew up unpcrceived 
by Shambhara. When Pradyumna came of age, Rati one day spoke to him in terms of 
love and the young man was at first horrified to hear the amorous words of the lady whom 
he had all along treated as his mother. Rati then told him his origin and their true relation- 
ship and the two from then on lived as man and wife. 

In course of time Rati became pregnant and Shambhara coming to know of her 
condition abused her. He was about to lay violent hands on her when Pradyumna appeared 
on the scene and killed Shambhara in single combat. After this the couple returned to 
Dwaraka with Narada, and Rukmini and Krishna were delighted to see their long lost son. 

The following story is told of Aniruddha, son of Pradyumna and Rati, whose ad- 
ventures with Usha, daughter of an Asura named Bana, led to a fierce battle in which 
Shiva and Vishnu fought on opposite sides. 

Bana’s daughter had a dream of a beautiful youth and she fell in love with him. 
Her companion Chitralckha drew for her, on a canvas, the pictures of all the kings and their 
sons who were then living and Usha picked out the picture of Aniruddha as the one she 
had seen in the dream. Chitralckha by her magic power descended to Dwaraka and carried 
off Aniruddha to Usha's palace. Usha hid him inside the palace and spent her days in 
amorous sport with him. The palace-guards observed a change in the physical appearance 
of the princess and reported the matter to Bana. Bana had Usha's palace searched, and he 
found Aniruddha. After a fierce struggle Aniruddlia was overpowered and put in prison. 

News of Aniruddha's captivity reached Krishna and Pradyumna, and they set out 
with an army and invaded the kingdom of Bana. Bana was a devotee of Shiva and by 
virtue of a boon he had received from this deity, was possessed of one thousand arms. 
Bana fought bravely with his thousand arms ; but he found it difficult to stem the tide of 
Krishna’s forces and he prayed to Shiva for help. This deity came in person and fought 
on the side of Bana. Ultimately the combat resolved itself into one between Shiva's trident 
and Vishnu’s disc. The two weapons fought fiercely but in the end the trident was broken. 

Usha was then, married to Aniruddha and the couple returned to Dwaraka. 

Sex-Worship in Archaic Religions 

From time immemorial man has traced a mystic connection between human sex-life 
and all generative phenomena. The connection between sex and life is obvious. Fruit- 



PLATE LIII 




» 5 * A STUUIOl'S RISHI OR SAGE 
(From Arts and Crafts of India and Cevton. 
Coomaraswamyl 


153 BRAHMA 

(Prom Art of India and Pakistan, Sir 
(Leigh Ashton) 



PLATE LIV 



!?gt5gg 







PLATfc LVI 



RING AUSTERE S^GES FROM THEIR DEVi 
M’raiio CopjTiBbt Archaeological Dept „ f !nd , ; 




LOVE -AND SEX 


205 

fulness and plenty were mystically traced to sex, and among savages to this day a good 
harvest is supposed to be caused by the sex activities of men and women. Hence in the 
beginning of the harvest season and even at the time of sowing, there were and are, among 
many savage tribes festivals in which promiscuous intercourse forms a prominent feature. 
The forefathers of all nations, now called civilized, were savages, and festivals symbolic of 
the primitivc fertility orgies still exist among them ; on these occasions a certain amount 
of license, held in horror in normal times, is permitted. The vitality of sex-belief is further 
illustrated by the theories of modem Freudians who maintain that all human activities 
are motivated by sex and that the Libido is the primal source of all teleological energy. 

In ancient Egypt, the phallus of Osiris was worshipped. Legends say that Osiris 
was a king who invented agriculture. He appointed his brother Typhon as his regent and 
travelled among foreign nations and taught them the art of agriculture. When Osiris 
returned Typhon murdered him, enclosed the dead body in a box and left it to drift down 
the Nile. 


Isis, wife of Osiris, set out in. search of the dead body and found it by the seashore 
in Phoenicia. She hid the body in a secret place and returned to Egypt to see her son Horus. 
In the meantime Typhon went out hunting and happened to see the body of his brother 
wliich he cut into forty pieces and dispersed to the winds. Isis again started on a pilgrimage 
of discovery and found all the parts of the body except the genitals. In honour of the lost 
member she ordered a phallus to be made of the wood of the fig-tree for worship. 


The genitals of not only humans but even of animals were worshipped by the Medi- 
terranean people. Priapus, a phallic god introduced into Greece probably from Egypt, 
derives his name from Apis, the bull-god of Egypt. The phalli of goats and asses were 
particularly worshipped because of the strong sex nature of these animals. “When Juno 
was invoked to make the Sabian women fruitful the worshippers heard the oracle speak 
from the sacred forests of Mount Esquilin : ‘Let the women of Italy be impregnated by a 
goat.’ ” 

There were various cults of Venus in Greece, and one of them was that of Venus, 
the Courtesan. Temples were dedicated to the goddess, and the chief source of income 
in these temples was the institution of sacred prostitutes who were hired out to visitors. 
Strabo says that in his days there were about one thousand prostitutes living in the temple 
of Venus in Corinth. 


In ancient Babylon, Mylitta was the goddess of fertility. All the women of the 
country had to prostitute themselves at least once in honour of the goddess. It is related 
that once a woman entered the temple for the purpose, she was not allowed to depart tin 
she had found a customer and paid the fee to the goddess. The young and handsome had 
to live in the temple for a comparatively short time while the ugly had to remain for months 
before they could get customers. Such usages, it need scarcely be added, were considered 
highly proper and sacred, and the high and the low had to conform to the priestly code. 


The Romans were no less inclined to sex-worship than the other great ancient peoples. 
Phallus worship and the cults of Venus were introduced into Rome from Eppt Greree 
and Syria and once they were introduced, they found a congenial soil and tta'ed. the 
phallus was called 'Mutinus' among the Romans. The symbol was placed in a small 
chariot and driven through the towns and villages, tile people accompanying it mth lasci- 
vious songs and dances. Even the most respectable people with families used to crown the 
figure with flowers.” 







LOVE" AND SEX 


IO7 


What was probably unashamed sex-worship among the aborigines had to be symbo- 
lized and explained when the belief was incorporated into Hinduism. Hence we find 
many myths in the Pur anas explaining how the worship originated. We have already 
noticed the story which purports to say that when Brahma and Vishnu started arguing 
about each other's priority there appeared before them Shiva in the form of the Lingam. 
In another myth it is related that while Shiva, after the death of Sati, was wandering 
like a lunatic, he happened to pass through a forest where the wives of some hermits saw 
him and asked him the cause of his madness. Shiva told them that he had a loving wife 
whose death he was mourning. A gay young lady did not believe him and expressed 
astonishment as to how any woman could ever marry such an emaciated ill-looking fellow, 
and laughed at ‘his story. The infuriated deity caught the woman and ravished her. 
Her husband came on the scene and imprecated a curse by the power of which Shiva came 
to be worshipped in the form of the Lingam. 


A third story is that when the sage Bhrigu went on a visit to Shiva he was made to 
wait outside for a long time as Shiva was making love to his wife ; and the sage, tired of 
waiting, cursed Shiva to be worshipped as the Lingam. 

Yet another account is that Shiva and Parvati in a romantic adventure strayed into 
a forest where some Rishis were practising austerities and were seen naked by the pious 
men who imprecated a curse by which Shiva came to be worshipped as the Phallus. 


Lingams are of different shapes and the 'uninitiated' would not understand their 
significance at all. "It is. some comparative and negative praise to the Hindus,” says 
Moor, * "that the emblems under which they exhibit the elements and operation of nature 
are not externally indecorous. Unlike the abominable realities of Egypt and Greece, we 
see the Phallic emblem in the Hindu Pantheon without offence, and know not until the 
information be extorted that we are contemplating a symbol whose prototype is indelicate. 
The external decency of the symbols and the difficulty with which their recondite allusions 
ate discovered both offer evidence favourable to the moral delicacy of the Hindu character.” 
The cult of the Yoni is said to have originated from the place where that part of Sati 
fell when her body was cut into pieces by Vishnu (see p. 41). Every place where a part 
of the body fell became sacred and a temple was built in honour of the relic. The Yoni 
is said to have fallen in Assam from where the worship spread all over India. Thus 
the myth of the origin of Phallus-worship in Egypt and that of Yoni-worship in India can 
be traced to a common source although the sexes have subsequently got mixed up. 


The Yonijas (those who' worship the Yoni) maintain that the feminine principle 
is anterior and superior to the male. It is said that Shiva and Patyati had once a dispute 
between them as to the superiority of the sexes and each one created a race of men. 1 hose 
who were created by Shiva devoted themselves to the exclusive worship of the male deity , 
and "their intellects became dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their com* 
plexions of different hues.” The race created by Parvati, on the other hand, worshippe 
the female power and they "became powerful, virile and handsome. Manadeva v, 
enraged at the result and was about to destroy the Yonijas when Parvati intercede 
their behalf : the race was, however, exiled from their homeland. 


Men who were excommunicated due to pollution such as that supposM to be cause 
by going overseas etc., were at one time made to be reborn through a metaUic Yoni before 
they were re-admitted into the Hindu fold. In the case ol rich people the symbol was 
made of gold which was, after the ceremony, given to Brahmins. 


• Hindu Pantheon 



106 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

"In the month of October took place the festival of Bacchus. This festival was 
celebrated in the sacred wood called Simiiia, near the river Tiber, and at first only women 
were admitted. Respectable married women used to take turns in being priestesses, and 
no scandal attacked the cult till a woman named Pacculla Minia brought in her two sons. 
Thenceforth other men were introduced and the mysteries took place every month and 
lasted five days. The men had to be under twenty-eight years of age — older men not 
being quite so pliable, impressionable or active.” 

"These Bacchanalian feasts soon became noted for the most shameful indecencies 
almost impossible to describe. Scenes of all kinds were enacted which would require 
the pen of a Marquis De Sade to depict in all their bestiality. Crowds of people sought 
to be initiated into the cult, and Dulare remarks that it was not merely a few but an entire 
people wished to participate in the abominable orgies. Indeed the orgies became so bad 
that the senate of Rome had to forbid them under the several penalties." 

Judaism and, later, Christianity tried their utmost to separate sex from religion. 
Although they succeeded to a certain extent, sex-beliefs were so deep-rooted among the 
people that many concessions had to be made to hoary traditions and certain pagan beliefs, 
gods and festivals were absorbed into Christianity and given new guises. Sex-cults also 
thrived in certain monasteries, and orders of knighthood, and only ruthless persecution 
succeeded in ridding these privileged circles of their sacred orgies. 

Worship of the Lingam and Yoni 

At what precise date sex-worship received recognition in Hinduism is not known. 
There is every reason to believe that the worship is not of Aryan origin. The Vedas, far 
from sanctioning it, speak of it with horror. "May the glorious Indra triumph over hostile 
beings says the Rig Veda ; "let not those whose god is the Sishana {membrum virile) 
approach our sacred ceremony.” Again "desiring to bestow strength in the struggle, that 
warrior (Indra) has besieged inaccessible places at the time when irresistible, slaying those 
whose god is the Sishana, lie, by force conquered the riches of the city with hundred gates.” 

By the Mahabharata time the worship of the Lingam and Yoni had come to be 
recognized as orthodox. The superior merit of sex-worship is thus maintained in the 
Mahabharata : "He whose Lingam Brahma, Vishnu and Indra worship is the most eminent. 
Since children bear not the mark of the lotus (of Brahma) but are marked with the male 
and the female organs — therefore offspring is derived from Maheswara. All women prod- 
uced from the nature of Devi as their cause, arc marked with the female organ, and all 
males are manifestly marked with the Lingam of Hara. He who asserts any other cause 
than Ishwara (Mahadcva) or (affirms) that there is any female not marked by Devi in 
three worlds including all things movable and immovable, let that fool be thrust out. Know 
everything which is male to be Ishwara, and all that is female to be Vcma, for this whole 
world movable and immovable is pervaded by these two bodies." 

The worship of the Lingam, it would appear, was popularized in its present form by 
Sbankara the Hindu revivalist who, in his crusade against Buddhism, had to make many 
concessions to popular superstitions so as to counterbalance the influence of Buddhism. 
With his deep insight into human nature Shankara judged the power of scx-cults correctly 
and popularized the worship of Mahadeva and Devi and had many temples built all over 
India where the worship of Shiva in the form of the Lingam was instituted. To placate 
the lower orders, many stories were also invented of how Shiva assumed the form of a 
hunter, a Sudra. a fisherman or some other low-caste man. 



• ' LOVE' AND SEX 


IO7 


What was probably unashamed sex-worship among the aborigines had to be symbo- 
lized and 'explained' when the belief was incorporated into Hinduism. Hence we find 
many myths in the Puranas explaining how the worship originated. We have already 
noticed the story which purports to say that when Brahma and Vishnu started arguing 
about each other’s priority there appeared before them Shiva in the form of the Lingam. 
In another myth it is related that while Shiva, after the death of Sati, was wandering 
like a lunatic, he happened to pass through a forest where the wives of some hermits saw 
him and asked him the cause of his madness. Shiva told them that he had a loving wife 
whose death he was mourning. A gay young lady did not believe him and expressed 
astonishment as to how any woman could ever marry such an emaciated ill-looking fellow, 
and laughed at his story. The infuriated deity caught the woman and ravished her. 
Her husband came on the scene and imprecated a curse by the power of which Shiva came 
to be worshipped in the form of the Lingam. 

A third story is that when the sage Bhrigu went on a visit to Shiva he was made to 
wait outside lor a long time as Shiva was making love to his wife ; and the sage, tired of 
waiting, cursed Shiva to be worshipped as the Lingam. 

Yet another account is that Shiva and Parvati in a romantic adventure strayed into 
a forest where some Rishis were practising austerities and were seen naked by the pious 
men who imprecated a curse by which Shiva came to he worshipped as the Phallus. 

Lingams are of different shapes and the ‘uninitiated’ would not understand their 
significance at all. "It is some comparative and negative praise to the Hindus,” says 
Moor,* "that the emblems under whicli they exhibit the elements and operation of nature 
are not externally indecorous. Unlike the abominable realities of Egypt and Greece, we 
see the Phallic emblem in the Hindu Pantheon without offence, and know not until the 
information be extorted that we are contemplating a symbol whose prototype is indelicate. 
The external decency of the symbols and the difficulty with which their recondite allusions 
are discovered both offer evidence favourable to the moral delicacy of the Hindu character.” 


The cult of the Yoni is said to have originated from the place where that part of Sati 
fell when her body was cut into pieces by, Vishnu (see p. 41). Every place where a part 
of the body fell became sacred and a temple was built in honour of the relic. The Yoni 
is said to have fallen in Assam from -where the worship spread all over India. Titus 
the myth of the origin of Phallus-worship in Egypt and that of Yoni-worship in India can 
be traced to a common source although the sexes have subsequently got mixed up. 


„ The Yoniias (those who' worship the Yoni) maintain that the feminine principle 
is anterior and superior to the male. It is said that Shiva and Parvati had once a dispu c 
between them as to the superiority of the sexes and each one created a race of men. I hose 
who were created by Shiva devoted themselves to the exclusive worship of the male deity . 
and "their intellects became dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their com- 
plexions of different hues.” The race created by Parvati, on the other hand, worshipped 
the female power and they "became powerful, virile and handsome. Mahadeva vas 
enraged at the result and was about to destroy the Yoiujas when Parvati interceded on 
their behalf ; the race was, however, exiled from their homeland. 

Men who were excommunicated due to pollution such as 1 hat s^edtabc^f 
by going overseas etc., were at one time made to be reborn 
they were re-admitted into the Hindu fold. In the case of rich P P > 

made of gold which was, after the ceremony, given to Brahmins. 


* Hindu PanDietm 



io8 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


Clefts and rocks which resemble the Yoni and Lingam arc also worshipped. 
Impotent men hope to gain virility by passing through such a cleft while barren women 
who wish to become mothers arc particularly devoted to the worship of the Lingam. 

While the Lingayatas exclusively worship the Lingam and the Saktas Yoni, a popular 
object of sex-worship is the symbol of coitus “indicated by the Linga inserted in its appro- 
priate receptacle, the Argha {literally, a vessel) or Yoni.' A ring at the bottom of a pillar 
is also indicative of the union of the two principles. 

While emblems of the Lingam and Yoni, used in sex -worship, are not indecent, the 
same cannot be said to be the case with the decorative art of some of the temples in which 
the artists have left little to the imagination. But then, to the ancients sex was not what 
it is to modern prudes. 

It is also well-known that many temples in India had, till recently, their complement 
of Devadasis — slaves of the gods. While the ostensible functions of these women were to 
dance before the idols and generally devote themselves to the service of the gods, it cannot 
be said that they were exclusively devoted to their sacred duties. Abuses were rampant 
and many temples were no better than sanctuaries of license. But right-minded Hindus 
were themselves the first to protest against this institution and at present there are few 
temples in India where Devadasis are overtly retained. 

While sex-worship is generally clothed in decorous forms and most of the devotees 
worship the principle symbolically, there is a ‘left-hand’ sect of Shaktas who worship sex 
realistically. The cult remains a jealously guarded secret, and for obvious reasons it 
is quite impossible to get an authentic account of the true nature of the mysteries. The 
sacred literature which deals with this branch of Hinduism is known as Tantras. The 
Tantrics (as the ‘left-hand* Shaktas are popularly known) hope to obtain salvation by 
means of Panchatatwas (the five Tatwas). Panchatatwas arc vulgarly called the five 
M's (Makaras), The M's are ('M' is the first letter of each word) Madya (liquor), Mansa 
(flesh), Matsya (fish), Mudra (com) and Maithuna (sexual intercourse). 

“The principle underlying the Panchatatwa worship appears to be that poison is 
the antidote of poison, and men must rise by those very things, through which they so often 
lose their manhood. The Kularmva T antra declares : 'As one falls on the ground one 
must lilt oneself by aid of the ground.’ The symbols chosen are very obvious ones : wine, 
the medicine, dispeller of care and source of merriment ; flesh, nourishcr of the body ; 
fish, the tasty giver of generative power; corn from the earth and finally sexual inter- 
course speaking of the love and joy of creation." 

Different forms of worship are mentioned in the Tantras. Communal worship is 
known as Chakrapuja (circle worship). In Chakrapuja an equal number of men and women 
sit in a circle and partake of 'the sacraments’. Sexual intercourse is ordinarily permitted 
only between man and wife. In certain cases, however, a man may have relations with a 
woman other than his wife, and in this case the couple are temporarily married by a Tantric 
rite known as Shaiva marriage. 

In another form, worshippers select “a woman of low caste or a prostitute and place 
her on a seat or mat ; then bring boiled fish, flesh, fried peas, rice, spirituous liquors, sweet- 
meats, flowers, etc. These offerings, as well as the female must next be purified by the 
repeating of incantations. To this should succeed the worship of the guardian deity. 
The female must be naked during the worship.” 



LOVE AND SEX 


109 

After thus seating the woman naked on a pedestal, the priest proceeds with the 
worship, the details of which we would better leave out. 

It is laid down in the texts that "the worshippers must be pure in heart, free from 
desire and lust, and conscious that they are taking part in a sacrament, the aim of which 
is to unite participants with Sakti, and to free them from the fetters of the ordinary man.” 
There is, however, difference of opinion among scholars as to whether these injunctions 
are strictly adhered to or not. 

The Tantrics recognize no caste in the Circle. All are equal before the goddess. 

In some of the Pujas the devotees have to remain naked tliroughout the ceremony. 
Adjoining the Sanctum Sanctorum is an apartment where the congregation strip themselves 
and keep their clothes. At the end of the worship every one takes the clothes one happens 
to lay one’s hands on, and goes home in them. So complete is the recognition of equality 
and brotherhood in the sect. 

To the credit of the Tantrics it must be mentioned that they made an attempt to 
abolish Sati before the advent of the British, and encouraged widow-marriages. As a 
rule the conduct of the generality of the Tantrics, outside the sanctuaries of worship, is 
considered good. They hold the view that the female is superior to the male and lay down 
that no female victim should ever be sacrified before the idol of Devi.* 


The Radha-Krishna Cult 


This is a finer form of sex-worship. In this cult, sex-love is held as the symbol 
of the individual souls yearning for union with the Universal Soul. The philosophy of 
the cult is identical with that of the Song of Songs and the mysticism of Sufis. 


Except for a casual mention in the Chhandogya TJfanishad, the name of Krishna is 
not found in Vedic literature. In the Mahabliarata, however, he is a prominent figure. 
In this epic he appears as a soldier and diplomat, and those accounts in it which arc meant 
to deify him are considered interpolations. It is in the Vishnu Parana and the Bhagbata 
that we read the various legends that speak of his divine nature. 

Krishna was probably the tribal god of some pastoral Rajput clan who came into 
prominence after the tenth century. By the eleventh century the worship of Krishna had 
become well-established on the bank of the Jumna, and from there spread throughout India. 
Poets and ecstatics did much to popularize the cult by drama, dance and song which ga\c a 
mystic and poetic interpretation to the love of the Gopis for Krishna. 


The scenes of the activities of the boyhood days of Krishna were the fields of Vnn- 
davan, on the bank of the Jumna, where he played with the cow-boys and danced with 
the Gopis. The Gopis, maddened by love of Krishna, enchanted by the melody of his 
flute, left their husbands and parents, and danced and sported with the lord of their hearts 
in the arcadian fields of Vrindavan. men the full moon shone over the blue watery of 
the Jumna and the gentle spring breeze blew over the flow-cr-Iadcntrraof I 
Krishna stole into thi groves and played on Ins flute Hcanng the Ime «01 ol Knshna. 
the Braj girls (Gopis) left their sleeping husbands and went m search of him. mm the 
ladies came, the lord of their hearts said : I called you to show >°“ vL w, 

Jumna and the groves on her banks shining in the silvery beams 1 of the moon 
seen, 0 Braj girk, the wonder of the moon playrng on .the nppfcs of the blue Jumna and 
enjoyed the breeze that blew from the cool waters of the n\c . g 3 

* Taatric worship is dealt with in greater detail la Kama Klfa (Taraporevala). 



no 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


husbands/' The Gopis were heart-broken at these cruel words. “Fie upon you, Krishi 
they said in one voice, “you woke us up from sleep and stole our hearts, and now you It 
us in mid-air as it were. You are cold and cruel and have cheated us. We care not 
husbands or parents or children and have abandoned everything for your sake. 1 
grant us our desire.” 

Then Krishna smiled and danced with the Gopis. He multiplied himself 
danced with each one of them, the Rasa-Lila dance, and every lady thought that Kris 
loved her most. 

The Gopis’ desertion of their husbands and parents is said to indicate the libera 
of the soul from all earthly attachments. 

Of all the Gopis Krishna loved Radha, Ayanagosha’s wife, most. Ayanagos! 
jealousy was roused and one day while Krishna was making love to Radha he surpr 
them. But before he came near enough, Krishna transformed himself into the god< 
Durga and the man who came intent on murder went back a devotee. 

In Jaya Deva’s Gita Govinda the loves and jealousies of Radha, are graphically < 
cribed. Radha, jealous and love-lorn, thus laments the absence of the beloved (shi 
speaking to her companion) : 

“Though he takes recreation in my absence, and smiles on all around him, yet 
soul remembers him whose languishing reed modulates an air, sweetened by the nec 
of his quivering lips, while his ear sparkles with gems, and his eye darts amorous glanc 
— him, whose locks are decked with the plumes of peacocks, resplendent with many colou 
moons, and whose mantle gleems like dark-blue cloud illumined with rainbows : — h 
whose graceful smile gives new lustre to his lips, brilliant and soft as a dewy leaf— su 
and ruddy as the blossoms of Bandhujiva, while they tremble with eagerness to kiss 
daughters of the herdsmen : — him, whose earrings are formed of entire gems in the sh; 
of the fish Makara on the banners of Love — even the yellow-robbed god whose attenda 
are the chief of deities, of holy men and of demons : — him, who reclines under a gay Kadan 
tree, who formerly delighted me while he gracefully moved in the dance and all his s 
sparkled in his eyes. My weak mind thus enumerates his qualities ; and though offend 
strives to banish the offence. What else can it do ? It cannot part with its affect 
for Krishna, whose love is excited my other damsels, and who sports in the absence 
Radha. Bring, O my sweet friend ! that vanquisher of the demon Kesin to sport u 
me who am repairing to a secret bower ; who looks timidly on all sides, who medita 
with amorous fancy on his divine transfiguration. Bring him, whose discourse was o: 
composed of the sweetest words, to converse with me who am bashful on the first approa 
and express thoughts with a smile sweet as honey. 

"That god, whose cheeks are beautified by the nectar of his smiles, whose pipe dr< 
in ecstasy from his hands, I first saw in the grove encircled by damsels of Braj ; who ga: 
on him askance from the corner of their eyes. I saw him in the grove with happier damse 
yet the sight qf him delighted me. Soft is the gale that blows over yon clear pool, a 
extends the clustering blossoms of the voluble Asoka ; soft, yet grievous to me is the absei 
of the foe of Madhu. Delightful are the flowers of the Amra, on the mountain top, wl 
the murmuring bees pursue their voluptuous toil ; delightful, yet afflicting to me, O frier 
is the absence of the youthful Kesava.” 

Krishna comes to Radha but she, angry because of his prolonged absence, prefer 
to spurn his amorous advances. Krishna then speaks : 



LOVE AND SEX 


III 


“Grant me but a sight of thee, 0 lovely Radha I for my passion torments me- I 
am not the terrible Mahadeva ; a garland of water-lilies with subtle threads, decks mv 
shoulders— not serpents with twisted folds ; the blue petals of the lotus glitter on my neck— 
not the azure gleam of poison ; powdered sandal wood is sprinkled on my krnbs— not 
pale ashes. O, god of love !. mistake me not for Mahadeva ; wound me not again ; approach 
me not in anger ; hold not in thy band the shaft barbed with an Amra flower. My heart 
is already pierced by arrow's from Radha's eyes, black and keen as those of an antelope ; 
yet mine eyes are not gratified by her presence. Her’s are full of shafts ; her eyebrows 
are bows, and the tips of her ears are silken strings : thus armed by Ananga (Kama), the 
god of desire, she marches herself a goddess, to ensure her triumph over the vanquished 
universe. I meditate on her delightful embrace ; on the ravishing glances darted from the 
fragrant lotus of her mouth ; on her nectar-dropping speech ; on her lips, ruddy as the 
berries of the Vimba." 


Radha, half pacified thus tenderly reproaches him : 

"Alas! alas!— Go Madhava— depart Kesava ; speak not the language of guile; 
follow her, 0 lotus-eyed god ! follow' her who dispels thy care. Look at his eyes, half 
opened, red with waking through the pleasurable night— yet smiling still with affection 
for my rival. Thy teeth, 0 cerulean youth ! are as azure as thy complexion, from the 
kisses thou hast imprinted on the beautiful eye of thy darling, graced with dark-blue powder ; 
and thy limbs marked with punctures in love’s warfare exhibit a letter of conquest, written 
in polished saphire with liquid gold." 

I close this quotation illustrating the beauty of Indian mystic poetry with the follo- 
wing description of Krishna given in Gita Govinda : 


“His azure breast glittered with pearls of unblemished lustre, like the full bed of the 
cerulean Yamuna, interspersed with curls of white foam. From his graceful waist flowed 
a pale yellow robe, which resembled the golden dust of the water lily, scattered over its 
blue petals. His passion was inflamed by the glances of her eyes which played like a pair 
of water birds with azure plumage, that sports near a full blown lotus, on a pool, in the 
season of dew. Bright earrings, like two suns, displayed in full expansion, the flowers of 
his cheeks and lips, which glistened with the liquid radiance o! smiles. His locks inter- 
woven with blossoms, were like a cloud variegated with moon-beams ; and on his forehead 
shone a circle of odorous oils, extracted from the sandal of Malaya— like the moon just 
ww the. dwsky horaow ; while his whole body seemed in a flame, from the blaze 
of unnumbered gems.”* 

During the spring, people from all over India go on pilgrimage to Vrindavan. It »s 
believed that pilgrims with sufficient devotion can even now' see visions of Krishna dancing 
with the Gopis in the groves of Vrindavan on moonlight nights. 


Although abuses do prevail, the adherents of the Radha-knshna cult are decent 
respectable people. Many noble souls of India belonged to this sect and of these Mira 
demands particular mention. This Rajput princess lived in the days of Akbar and tra\ cl ed 
far and vide popularizing the cult, and singing many ballads of myst ic lot c. S he was 
particularly contemptuous of tile ascetics of Shiva. If living on ira e , 
heaven," Lys Mira, “fishes and turtles would go to heaven before men .if feeding 
leaves and nuts were of superior virtue, monkeys and cattle would be liberated first. 

The Hindus are well aware that Krishna's midnight adventures with the Gopis are 


• Quoted from Moor's Hindu Panikeen. 



112 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


capable of interpretations other than the mystic. In the Bhagbata a king asks a sage: 
“How did the divine lord who became incarnate for the establishment of virtue and the 
repression of vice, practise its contrary, namely the corruption of other men’s wives ?’’ 

The sage gives the following reply : “The transgressions of virtue, and the daring 
acts which are witnessed in superior beings must not be charged as faults in those glorious 
persons as no blame is imputed to fire which consumes fuel of every description. Let 
no one other than a superior being ever even in thought practise the same : anyone who, 
through folly, does so, perishes, like anyone not a Rudra drinking the poison produced 
from the ocean. The word of superior beings is true and so also is their conduct correct. 
Let a wise man observe their command, which is right. These beings, 0 king, who are 
beyond the reach of personal feelings have no interest in good deeds done in this world, 
nor do they incur any detriment from the contrary. How much less can there be any 
relation of good or evil between the lord of all beings, brute, mortal and divine and the 
creatures over whom he rules ?'* 










CHAPTER IX 


THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND OTHER PLANETS 

M YTHS about the heavenly bodies are numerous in Hinduism. While some of the 
fables are the wild offspring of imagination, others are allegoric of astronomic 
phenomena. 

There is every reason to believe that the real causes of most of the ordinary astro- 
nomic phenomena were known to the ancient Hindus. They carefully watched the move- 
ments of the heavenly bodies and noted the changes of position of the sun and the con- 
sequent difference in the seasons. They could prepare calendars and correctly predict 
the dates of eclipses. All these speak well of their deductive and inductive abilities. But 
ancient Hindus had not that spirit of open enquiry that characterizes scientific research in 
our own times. Knowledge is power and the ancients kept all knowledge secret. The 
Brahmin never made public the wisdom supposed to be contained in the Vedas, and these 
could be read only by priests. The physician kept the knowledge of medicine to himself 
and imparted it only to his son or a favoured pupil. The same was the case with almost 
all branches of learning, art and craft. Apart from the obvious trade-jealousy involved, 
knowledge made public was feared to lose its supposed magic powers. Hence it is no 
wonder that the ancient astronomer kept his mysterious knowledge to himself and gave 
the people cock-and-bull stories about the phenomena of the heavens. Besides, it was 
difficult to explain to an ignorant public the true nature and causes of these phenomena. 
So he spoke in the language the people could understand. 

Astrology, some people opine, originated from the observation of the moon's in- 
fluence on the menstrual seasons of women. In an age when men looked for mystic causes 
.even when obvious physical causes could give satisfactory explanations, the influence of 
^such a distant body as the moon on humans certainly struck thoughtful men as mysterious. 
Besides such life-giving agents as the sun and moon on which the earth and all the creatures 
on it depend for sustenance, their mysterious rising and setting, the changes in their course 
and appearance, the cycle of the seasons and the earth’s reaction to them, the glory of the 
star-studded heavens, the blue expanse of the sky, all these cannot but inspire the thinking 
mind with a sense of some power in or behind them which is beyond the range of human 
comprehensibility. And ancient Hindus were a people who looked for mystery in the 
plainest thing. 

The Sun 

The worship of the sun is very ancient and some scholars hold the view that all 
religions had their origin in sun-worship. Vedic Aryans loved the brighter side of life 
and hence the sun was an important object of worship. In some hymns of the Rig Veda 
he is mentioned as the only god. The character and greatness of the sun is thus described 
in the Rig Veda : 

" Behold the rays of Dawn, like heralds, lead on high 
The Sun, that men may see the great all-knowing god. 

The stars slink off like thieves, in company with Night, 

Before the all-seeing eye, whose beams reveal his presence. 

Gleaming like brilliant flames, to nation after nation. 



i6S PLANETS AND SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC 
PLANETS:— (i) Surya. (a) Brahaspatt. (3) Ketu. (4) Rahu. (5) Budha (6) Manga la. {7) Cliandra (8) Sam. (9) Sukra. 

SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC— L Mesha. II. VmhaWia. IIL Mithuo. IV. Kirk. V. Smha. VL ICaaya. VII. Tula. 
VIII. Vnschika. IX. Dhanu. X. Makara. XL Kumbha. XII. Meena. 


(From Moor's Hindu Pantkeon) 



CHAPTER IX 


THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND OTHER PLANETS 

M YTHS about the heavenly bodies are numerous in Hinduism. While some of the 
fables are the wild offspring of imagination, others are allegoric of astronomic 
phenomena. 

There is every reason to believe that the real causes of most of the ordinary astro- 
nomic phenomena were known to the ancient Hindus. They carefully watched the move- 
ments of the heavenly bodies and noted the changes of position of the sun and the con- 
sequent difference in the seasons. They could prepare calendars and correctly predict 
the dates of eclipses. All these speak well of their deductive and inductive abilities. But 
ancient Hindus had not that spirit of open enquiry that characterizes scientific research in 
our own times. Knowledge is power and the ancients kept all knowledge secret. The 
Brahmin never made public the wisdom supposed to be contained in the Vedas, and these 
could be read only by priests. The physician kept the knowledge of medicine to himself 
and imparted it only to his son or a favoured pupil. The same was the case with almost 
all branches of learning, art and craft. Apart from the obvious trade-jealousy involved, 
knowledge made public was feared to lose its supposed magic powers. Hence it is no 
wonder that the ancient astronomer kept his mysterious knowledge to himself and gave 
the people cock-and-bull stories about the phenomena of the heavens. Besides, it was 
difficult to explain to an ignorant public the true nature and causes of these phenomena. 
So he spoke in the language the people could understand. 

Astrology, some people opine, originated from the observation of the moon's in- 
fluence on the menstrual seasons of women. In an age when men looked for mystic causes 
.even when obvious physical causes could give satisfactory explanations, the influence of 
x / such a distant body as the moon on humans certainly struck thoughtful men as mysterious. 
Besides such life-giving agents as the sun and moon on which the earth and all the creatures 
on it depend for sustenance, their mysterious rising and setting, the changes in their course 
and appearance, the cycle of the seasons and the earth's reaction to them, the glory of the 
star-studded heavens, the blue expanse of the sky, all these cannot but inspire the thinking 
mind with a sense of some power in or behind them which is beyond the range of human 
comprehensibility. And ancient Hindus were a people who looked for mystery in the 
plainest thing. 

The Sun 

The worship of the sun is very ancient and some scholars hold the view that Ml 
religions had their origin in sun-worship. Vedic Aryans loved the brighter side of life 
and hence the sun was an important object of worship. In some hymns of the Rig Veda 
he is mentioned as the only god. The character and greatness of the sun is thus described 
in the Rig Veda : 

" Behold the rays of Dawn, like heralds, lead on high 
The Sun, that men may see the great all-knowing god. 

The stars slink off like thieves, in company with Night, 

Before the all-seeing eye, whose beams reveal his presence. 

Gleaming like brilliant flames, to nation after nation. 

**3 



H4 


EPICS, MYTHS AND tEGENDS OF INDIA 


With speed, beyond the ken of mortals, thou, 0 Sun 1 
Dost ever travel on, conspicuous to all. 

Thou dost create the light, and with it dost illume 
The universe entire ; thou risest in the sight 
Of all the race of men, and all the host of heaven. 

Light-giving Vanina t thy piercing glance dost scan, 

In quick succession all this stirring, active world. 

And penctrateth too the broad ethereal space, 

Measuring our days and nights, and spying out all creatures. 

Surya with flaming locks, clear-sighted god of day, 

Thy seven ruddy mares bear on thy rushing car. 

With these thy self-yoked steeds seven daughters of thy chariot, 

Onward thou dost advance. To thy refulgent orb 
Beyond this lower gloom, and upward to the light 
Would we ascend, 0 Sun t thou god among the gods." 

In one place in the Rig Veda, Surya (sun) is mentioned as Savitri, wife of the moon. 
But generally the sun is considered a male deity. 

The Hindu Triad is traced to the sun. One of his name is Treyitenu (three-bodied) 
which signifies his triple capacity for "producing forms by his genial heat, preserving them 
by his light or destroying them by the concentrated force of his igneous matter." 

In the Puranas, the sun is spoken of as an Aditya (son of Kasyapa and Aditi) % The 
Adityas are twelve : Dhatri, Aryamat, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Vivaswat, Pushan, Parjanya, 
Anshu, Bhaga, Twashtri and Vishnu. Of these Vishnu is considered the foremost and is, 
in some accounts, identified with the sun. Others maintain that the Adityas are different 
names of the sun indicative of his differing appearance in the twelve months. 

In the Vishnu Parana it is related that Viswakarma deprived the sun of an eighth 
part of his original brilliance in the manner narrated below. 

Surya married Sanjana, daughter of Viswakarma. After bearing him three children 
San} ana found her husband’s brilliance oppressive, asked her handmaid Chhaya (shadow) 
to take her place, and went away to a forest. Chaya did not disclose her identity and 
Surya did not notice the change tor some years. But one day Yama, a son of Santana, 
misbehaved and Chhaya imprecated a curse which immediately took effect. Surya who 
knew that a mother's curse could not have effect on her child made enquiries and found 
out who his supposed wife was. The angered luminary drove away Chhaya and went 
in search of Sanjana whom he found browsing in the forest in the form of a mare. Surya 
now transformed himself into a horse and the pair lived like this for some time. They, 
however, grew tired of their animal life, reassumed their proper shapes and returned home. 
Viswakarma, to avoid a repetition of the incident, ground the sun upon a stone and deprived 
him of an eighth part of his brilliance with which he forged the discus of Vishnu, the trident 
of Shiva and the lance of Kartikeya. 

The Suryavamsa (solar dynasty of kings) takes its name from the sun. 

The sun is represented in art as a dark-red man with three eyes and four arms, riding 
in a chariot drawn by seven horses (indicative of the seven days of the week). His charioteer 
is Arun (literally ‘the rosy’ meaning the dawn). Arun is the brother of Garuda ; he has no 
legs. 



THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND OTHER PLANETS 


US 


There is a sect who worship the sun as the Deity. The numerous sects of orthodox 
Hindus fall into six main divisions : (1) Vaishnavas (those who worship Vishnu as the 
principal deity of the pantheon), (2) Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva], (3) Saktas (worshippers 
of Sakti, see page 108), (4) Ganapatyas (worshippers of Ganapati) (5) Surapats (worsliippers 
of Surya or the sun) and (6) Smarthas who worship all the five with equal impartiality. 
Of these Vaishnavas and Shaivas are the most numerous and the worshippers of Surya 
negligibly few. There is, however, no antagonism between the sects ; while each of the 
first five sects worships its own favourite deity as the principal god or goddess of the pan- 
theon, other deities are also worshipped, though given subordinate positions.* 

The Gayatri, the most important Mantra of the Vedas, is addressed to the sun. 
The text is given elsewhere. The nature and power of the Gayatri are thus described : 
“Nothing in the Vedas is superior to the Gayatri. No invocation is equal to the Gayatri, 
as no city is equal to Kasi (Benares). The Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas and of Brah- 
mins. By repeating it a man is saved. By the power of the Gayatri the Kshatriya Viswa- 
mitra became a Brahmarshi (Brahmin saint), and even obtained such power as to be able 
to create a new world. | What is there indeed that cannot be effected by the Gayatri ? 
For the Gayatri is Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva and the three Vedas. "I 

The mystic monosyllable ‘AUM’ (this is the correct spelling and not OM) is also 
traced to the sun. It represents the solar fire as well as the Trinity. “The first letter 
stands for the creator, the second for the preserver and the third for the destroyer." It 
is written inside a circle representing the orb of the sun, and its representations arc often 
worn by the Hindus as lockets. In the Chliaiidogya Upaitishad ‘AUM’ is thus described : 
“The essence of all beings is the earth, the essence of the earth is water, the essence of 
water the plants, the essence of plants man, the essence of man speech, the essence of speech 
the Rig Veda, the essence of Rig Veda the Sama Veda, the essence of the Sama Veda the 
Udghita which is AUM." 

The Swastika is a solar symbol of Hindu origin. The word is Sanskrit and means 
“to be and well". It is a sign of munificence and indicates that "the maze of life may 
bewilder but the path of light runs through it." 

The twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac are : Mesha (Aries, the ram), Vrishabha (Taurus, 
the bull), Mithun (Gemini, the twins), Kirk (Cancer, the crab), Sinha (Leo, the lion), Kanya 
(Virgo, the virgin), Tula (Libra, the scales), Vrischika (Scorpio, the scorpion), Dhanu (Sagit- 
tarius, the archer), Makara (Capricorn, the goat), Kumbha (Aquarius, the water-bearer) 
and Meena (Pisces, the fish). 


Ushas 


Some of the most beautiful hymns of the Rig Veda are addressed to the goddess 
Ushas, personification of the Dawn. She is described as the daughter of the sky, sister 
of Night and wife of Surya. She travels in a shining chariot drawn by seven ruddy cows. 
One of the hymns addressed to Ushas runs as follows : 


• For detailed descriptions ol the various sects please see author's Hindu Religion, Customs and ifeniurt. 
f When Brahma repeatedly refused to male Viswamitra a Brahmin. Viswamitra in defiance of the creator started creat- 
ing a new world by the accumulated power of his prolonged austerities. "He made the coco an ut tree from the fruit of which he 
intended to male men’s heads ; instead of the Robita. he made the fish hlngala Instead of the Kan tala tree, ha made the wan- 
dara : instead of the goat made by Brahma he made the long-eared goat ; instead of the sheep created by Brahma, he made the 
Dumb* ; instead of the cold -season nee be made the wet-season nee ; instead of the legumes made by Brahma, he made those 
which grow in the wet season." Brahma became alarmed at the success of Viswamitra's attempt and went to him in the form of 
a Brahmin and asked for a boon. Viswaraitra promised to grant him any boon desired of tarn and the Brahmin requested him to 
stop creating. 

{ The Vtdas were originally three ; The Atharca Veda is a later addition. 



THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND OTHER PLANETS 


117 

but Brahma made a last appeal to reason and asked Chandra to return the lady to 
Brahaspati. The moon had by now grown somewhat tired of Tara and he sent her back 
to Brahaspati. But the lady was found pregnant and Brahaspati would not accept her till 
the birth of the child. At Brahma’s command Tara gave birth to the child immediately, 
but seeing the beauty and splendour of the babe both Chandra and Brahaspati claimed 
him. Tara was then asked to name the father of the child and after a good deal of coaxing 
she admitted that Chandra was his father. The enraged Brahaspati immediately cursed 
Tara and she was reduced to ashes. Brahma, however, revived her and after a purification 
ceremony Tara was received back by Brahaspati. 

The trouble, however, did not end here. Varuna, father of Chandra (because of his 
birth from the sea the moon is said to be a son of Varuna, the sea-god) felt ashamed of his 
son and disinherited him. But Lakshmi, Chandra’s sister, requested Parvati to influence 
her husband to do something for her dishonoured brother. Parvati's suit was successful 
and Shiva, to exalt Chandra, wore him on his forehead. Thus ornamented, Mahadeva 
went to a feast of the gods where Brahaspati saw the disgraced sinner thus honoured and 
objected to his presence among decent gods. There was an argument between Shiva and 
Brahaspati and the matter was referred to Brahma for settlement. The creator gave his 
verdict in favour of Brahaspati, and Chandra was consequently forbidden entry into heaven 
and was asked always to remain in the sky. 

Chandra is represented in art as a copper-coloured man. His banner is red. He 
rides in a car drawn by a pied antelope. 

From the circumstance of the lunar month having twenty-eight days (a multiple of 
seven) the mystic number seven is traced to the moon. One comes across this number 
very often in the Hindu scriptures. There are seven Rishis, seven Manus, seven oceans and 
seven sacred rivers. There are seven days in the week. The divine mothers are seven. 
There are seven island continents in each of winch (excepting the first and the seventh) 
there are seven kingdoms, seven mountains, and seven rivers. The number of hells are 
seven or a multiple of seven. The Maruts are forty-nine, seven times seven. The Manwan- 
taras are fourteen of which the current one is the seventh. The number is particularly 
sacred to Agni. He has seven arms, seven tongues, seven abodes and seven sources. 
Seven sacrifices worship him in seven ways. His fuels are seven and sages seven. Seven 
books of the Yajur Veda are assigned to Agni. He has seven brothers. 

The hoses of Surya are seven and the cows of Ushas seven. There are seven groups 
of Apsaras. The height of Kumbhakarna was eighty-four leagues. Mount Mem rises 
84,000 leagues above the earth. The circumference of Brahma's heaven, according to 
one account, is 14,000 leagues. 

The Earth 

In the Vedas and the Pur anas, the earth is often referred to as the goddess Prithvi. 
In the Rig Veda Dyau (the sky), is said to be her husband and in the Puranas , Prithu. 

Prithu was an Avatar of Vishnu, bom of the arm of the dead body of Vena, a wicked 
king whom the sages murdered on account of his tyranny. But anarchy succeeded Vena 
and the sages found that a wicked king was better than none. So they opened the thigh of 
Vena from which sprang forth a black demon. The wickedness of Vena thus leaving him, 
his arm was opened and Prithu came out of the gaping arm. ~ He married Prithvi but she 
refused to yield her treasures and there' was a famine .in .-the land..- Prithu decided to kill 
Prithvi and chased her. She took the form of a cow and fled to Brahma for protection. 



ii8 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


The creator refused her asylum but asked her to return to her husband and give him what 
he wanted. She returned, and Prithu beat and wounded her ; in memory of which all the 
races of men have, ever since, been wounding her with ploughs, spades and other imple- 
ments of agriculture. 

Prithu was obviously the inventor of agriculture among In do- Aryans, as the myth 
so clearly indicates. 

In course of time Prithvi came to be considered a symbol of patience, bearing all 
the misdeeds of men without complaint. She is said to be the example of correct be- 
haviour, as she returns good for evil and gives those who tear her bowels the desirable 
treasures of the earth. 

The earth is often represented as a cow. 

The Planets 

The planets are said to be nine. They are (i) Ravi (the Sun), (2) Chandra (the 
Moon), (3) Mangala (Mars), (4) Budha (Mercury), (5) Brahaspati (Jupiter), (6) Sukra (Venus), 
(7) Sani (Saturn), (8) Rahu (Dragon’s head : the ascending node), and (9) Ketu (Dragon’s 
tail : the descending node). 

The following sacrificial prayer to the planets is recited while performing the rites 
of the oblations to fire, one of the five daily sacraments of a Brahmin : 

"1. The Divine Sun approaches with his golden car, returning alternately with 
the shades of night ; rousing mortal and immortal beings, and surveying worlds. May 
this oblation to Surya be efficacious. 2. Gods ! produce that (moon) which has no foe, 
which is the son of the solar orb, and became the offering of space for the benefit of this 
world ; produce it for the advancement of knowledge, for protection from danger, for 
vast supremacy, for empire, and for the sake of Indra's organs of sense. May this oblation 
to Chandra be efficacious. 3. This gem of the sky whose head resembles fire, is the lord 
of waters and replenishes the seeds of the earth. May this oblation to Mangala be efficacious. 
4. Be roused, O Fire ! and thou (0 Budha) perfect this sacrificial rite and associate with 
us ; let this votary, and all the gods, sit in this most excellent assembly. May this oblation 
to the planet Budha be efficacious. 5. O Brahaspati I sprung from eternal truth confer 
on ns abundantly That various wealth which the most venerable oi beings may revesoj 
which shines glorious among all people, which serves to defray sacrifices which is preserved 
by strength. May this oblation to Brahaspati be efficacious. 6. The lord of creatures 
drank the invigorating essence distilled from food; he drank milk and the juice of the 
moon plant. By means of scripture which is truth itself, the beverage thus quaffed became 
a prolific essence, the eternal organ of universal perception, Indra’s organs of sense, the 
milk of immortality and honey to the manes of ancestors. May tliis oblation to Sukra 
be efficacious. 7. May divine waters be auspicious to us for accumulation, for gain, and 
for refreshing draughts ; may they listen to us, that we may be associated with good aus- 
pices. May this oblation to Sani be efficacious. 8. 0 Durva ! which doth germinate 
at every knot, at every joint, multiply us through a hundred, through a thousand descents. 
May this oblation to Rahu be efficacious. 9. Be thou produced by dwellers in this world 
to give knowledge to ignorant mortals and wealth to the indigent, or beauty to the ugly. 
May this oblation to Ketu be efficacious." 

(1) Ravi. Ravivara (Sunday) is named after him. In burnt offerings small pieces 
of the shrub Arka (Ascelepias giganlica) are offered to him. The image of the sun used 



THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AJJD OTHER PLANETS 


119 

by astrologers and for planetary worship is a 'round piece of mixed metal twelve fingers 
in diameter.' 

Ravi is considered a "malefic" or evil planet by Indian astrologers. "A person 
bom under this planet will possess an anxious mind, be subject to diseases and other suffer- 
ings, be an exile, a prisoner, and suffer the loss of wife, children and property." 

(2) Soma. (Hence Somavara, Monday). The Palasa [Bulea fondosa) is sacred 
to him. His image is "a piece like the half-moon a cubit from end to end." 

The full moon is a "benefic". “If a person is bom under him, he will have many 
friends ; will possess elephants, horses and palanquins ; be honourable and powerful ; 
will live on excellent food, and rest on superb couches.” 

(3) _ Man gala. (Hence Mangalavara, Tuesday). He is identical with Kartikeya. 
The Khudiru (Mimosa catechu) is sacred to him. His image is a “triangular piece six 
fingers in width.” 

He is a "malefic" and a person bom under his influence "will be full of anxious 
thoughts, wounded with offensive weapons, imprisoned, oppressed with fear of robbers, 
fire, etc., and will lose his lands, cattle and good name." 

(4) Budha. (Hence Budliavara, Wednesday)- Aparamargu (Achryranthes aspera) 
is sacred to him. His image is a "golden bow two fingers m breadth.” 

Budha is the son of Soma bom of Tara, Brahaspati's wife. When the child was 
bom and at Brahma’s command Tara hesitated to mention his father’s name the child, 
it is said, threatened to curse her if she would not name his father. Thus intimidated, Tara 
spoke and Chandra pleased with the child, said : "Verily, my son, thou art wise." Hence 
he was named Budha (wise).* 

Budha's wife is Ila who becomes a man every other month. The reason for this 
peculiarity is given in the following legend : 

Manu had no children and he performed a sacrifice to Surya so as to beget a son. 
But due to an irregularity of the ministering priest, the rite was deranged and instead of a 
son, a daughter, Ila, was bom. Manu charged Vasishta, the supervising priest, with neg- 
ligence of his duties and the sage prayed to Brahma who transformed Ila into a man and 
named him Sadyumna. One day while Sadyumna was hunting game, he strayed into a 
sacred forest where he saw Parvati naked in the arms of Shiva. Parvati cursed Sadyumna 
and he became a woman. Budha now saw her and married her. After the birth of a son, 
however, Ila wished to become a man and propitiated Vishnu. Caught between the curse 
of Parvati and the blessing of Vishnu Sadyumna remains a woman for one month and a 
man for the next. 

Budha by himself is neither a "malefic" nor a "benefic". His influence on persons 
bom under him is dependent upon his association with other planets. 

(5) Brahaspali. (Hence Brahaspativara, Thursday). Aswatha ( Fiscus religiosa ) 
is sacred to him. His image is a "piece like the lotus." 

Brahaspati is a "benefic". "If a man be bom under this planet he will be endowed 
with an amiable disposition, possess palaces, gardens, lands, and be Tich in money and 
com. He will possess much religious merit, and have all his wishes gratified. Brahmins, 

* This Budlva is different from Gautama, tha Buddha, founder of Buddhism. The similarity of names is accidental. 



120 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


however, will not be so fortunate as members of other castes, for Brahaspati, being a Brah- 
min, does not wish to exalt those of his own caste.” 

6. Sitkra. (Hence Sukravara, Friday). He is the son of Bhrigu and is also called 
Ushanas, He is the preceptor of the Asuras and knows the incantation for bringing the 
dead back to life. He is blind in one eye. This affliction was caused by Vishnu. When 
Vishnu assumed the form of a dwarf and went to Bali for three paces of land (see page 28), 
Sukra understood who the dwarf was and asked Bali to send him away. But regardless 
of all consequences Bali decided to grant the request of the Brahmin, and as a ratification 
of the gift, the priest was asked to read the customary formula and pour out the sacred 
water from a vessel. Sukra, determined to prevent the ruin of his master, entered the 
water by his magic powers, and the water was held up in the vessel. Vishnu saw through 
Sukra's trick and dropped a straw into the vessel, which entered the sage's eye. Sukra 
now came out of the water, blind in one eye. 

Sukra is the most auspicious of all the planets. A person born under his influence 
“will have the faculty of knowing things past, present and future. He will have many 
wives, a kingly umbrella (an emblem of royalty) and other kings will worship him." 

The Urwnbasa is sacred to Sukra and his image is a "square piece of silver". 

7. Sant. (Hence Sanivara, Saturday). The Sami (Mimosa albida) is sacred to 
him and his image is an iron scimitar. 

Sani is the son of Surya and Chhaya. He is represented as a lame, uncouth, black 
man clad in black garments. He rides on a vulture. He is a “malefic among malefics", 
and Hindus dread his influence above everything else. AU misfortunes and calamities are 
traced to him. A person born under Sani “will be slandered, his riches will be dissipated 
and his son, wife and friends destroyed ; he will live at variance with others and endure many 
sufferings.” 

In the reign of king Dasaratha, it is related, Sani threatened a very inauspicious 
conjunction which, if allowed to take place, would have led to the destruction of the earth. 
Even the members of the Trinity could not alter the course of the evil planet. In this 
predicament Vasishta asked Dasaratha to attack the planet and make him change his 
cursed course. Dasaratha undertook to perform the difficult task and after a violent con- 
flict subdued Sani and averted the catastrophe. 

8. Rahu and (9) Kelu. Blades of Durva grass are sacred to Raliu and those of 
Kusa to Ketu. The image of Rahu is an iron Makara (a mythical fish) and that of Ketu 
an iron snake. 

The myth of the origin of Ketu from Rahu and the story of the latter's enmity with 
the sun and moon have already been narrated (page gi). Rahu is the son of Brahaspati 
begotten on an Asura lady. 

Rahu and Ketu are "malefics". If a person is bom under any one of them, "his 
wisdom, riches and children will be destroyed; he will be exposed to many afflictions and 
will be subject to his enemies." 

The Story of Dhruva (The Pole-Star) 

Once there lived a king. He had a son named Dhruva, bom of his chief wife Suniti. 
But the king had a younger wife on whom he doted. This queen got the king completely 



A HINDU LADY GIWXC AIAIS TO A 
RELIGIOUS-MENDICANT 


WORSHIPPING THE SEN tjt 

r rom a painting b> Mrs. BclnosJ 



120 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

however, will not be so fortunate as members of other castes, for Brahaspati, being a Brah- 
min, does not wish to exalt those of his own caste.” 

6. Sukra. (Hence Sukravara, Friday). He is the son of Bhrigu and is also called 
Ushanas. He is the preceptor of the Asuras and knows the incantation for bringing the 
dead back to life. He is blind in one eye. This affliction was caused by Vishnu. When 
Vishnu assumed the form of a dwarf and went to Bali for three paces of land (see page 28), 
Sukra understood who the dwarf was and asked Bali to send him away. But regardless 
of all consequences Bali decided to grant the request of the Brahmin, and as a ratification 
of the gift, the priest was asked to read the customary formula and pour out the sacred 
water from a vessel. Sukra, determined to prevent the ruin of his master, entered the 
water by his magic powers, and the water was held up in the vessel. Vishnu saw through 
Sukra's trick and dropped a straw into the vessel, which entered the sage's eye. Sukra 
now came out of the water, blind in one eye. 

Sukra is the most auspicious of all the planets. A person born under his influence 
''will have the faculty of knowing things past, present and future. He will have many 
wives, a kingly umbrella (an emblem of royalty) and other kings will worship him.” 

The Urumbasa is sacred to Sukra and his image is a "square piece of silver”. 

7. Sani. (Hence Sanivara, Saturday). The Sami ( Mimosa albida) is sacred to 
him and his image is an iron scimitar. 

Sani is the son of Surya and Chhaya. He is represented as a lame, uncouth, black 
man clad in black garments. He rides on a vulture. He is a "malefic among malefics”, 
and Hindus dread his influence above everything else. All misfortunes and calamities are 
traced to him. A person born under Sani "will be slandered, his riches will be dissipated 
and his son, wife and friends destroyed ; he will live at variance with others and endure many 
sufferings.” 

In the reign of king Dasaratha, it is related, Sani threatened a very inauspicious 
conjunction which, if allowed to take place, would have led to the destruction of the earth. 
Even the members of the Trinity could not alter the course of the evil planet. In this 
predicament Yasishta asked Dasaratha to attack the planet and make him change his 
cursed course. Dasaratha undertook to perform the difficult task and after a violent con- 
flict subdued Sani and averted the catastrophe. 

8. Rahu and (9) Ketu. Blades of Durva grass are sacred to Rahu and those of 
Kusa to Ketu. The image of Rahu is an iron Makara (a mythical fish) and that of Ketu 
an iron snake. 

The myth of the origin of Ketu from Rahu and the story of the latter's enmity with 
the sun and moon have already been narrated (page 91). Rahu is the son of Brahaspati 
begotten on an Asura lady. 

Rahu and Ketu are "malefics". If a person is bom under any one of them, "his 
wisdom, riches and children will be destroyed ; he will be exposed to many afflictions and 
will be subject to his enemies.” 

The Story of Dhruva (The Pole-Star) 

Once there lived a king. He had a son named Dhruva, bom of his chief wife Suniti. 
But .the king had a younger wife on whom he doted. This queen got the king completely 




Muhology of the Ihr 




PLATE LX1I 







THE SUN, MOON, EARTH AND OTHER PLANETS 


121 


under her power, and had Suniti and her son exiled into a forest. 

When Dhniva was seven years of age, one day he asked his mother: "Mother 
dear, who is my father ?" Suniti wept and told him that he was a king’s son and that his 
father was still alive. The boy asked for permission to visit his father and the fond mother 
blessed him and sent him to the king. 

On seeing his little son, the king was overcome with joy, and he took Dhruv'3 on 
his lap and fondled him. While the happy child was thus sitting on his father's lap* his 
step-mother came on the scene, and, seeing the exiled little prince thus honoured, burst 
into a fit of rage, reviled the king, took the child by force and turned him out of doors. 

The child returned to his mother, sad and thoughtful. He was brooding all the "ay 
on the impotence of his father. As soon as he reached home he asked his mother : "Mother, 
is there anyone more powerful in the world than a king ?” “Yes,” said Suniti, "Narayana 
is more powerful than kings.” "Where does Narayana live ?” asked the child again. 
"He lives," said his mother, "in forests inaccessable to man. But why such queries, 
my son ?” Dhniva did not answer. 

That night while his mother was asleep Dhruva got up, prayed to Narayana to take 
care o! her and stole into .the forest. He travelled far, far into the depths of the forests. 
He reached the great forests where the seven Rishis lived and asked them where Narayana 
was. They told him that the way to Narayana's abode was long and perilous. The child, 
daring all, continued his journey. He saw the tiger and asked him if he was Narayana. 
The tiger ran away from him. He saw the bear and the bear ran away from him. Then 
he met the sage Narada who told him that Narayana was w^ere he stood. He asked the 
child to sit down and meditate upon him. 

The child sat down and meditated, his whole mind fixed on Narayana. Then 
Narayana translated his child-devotee to Dhruvaloka (the region of the pole-star) where he 
sits to this day as the pole-star, fixed and steady, his soul in union with Narayana. 



ANIMALS AND BIRDS 


125 

this king let fly an arrow which brought Hanuman down. Grieved at his mistake Bharata 
told Hanuman that he could rocket him to Lanka by means of another arrow, which offer 
the hero declined. Hanuman flew on his own strength with the hill, but on nearing Lanka, 
saw from bis elevated position the moon about to rise. As the herb could have effect 
only before moonrise he swallowed the moon, reached Lanka in time and revived the wound- 
ed heroes. 


Many more astounding tales of Hanuman’s prodigious strength are told which, for 
wild exaggeration, have few parallels in the whole realm of mythology. 

In the Mahabharata is an interesting account of a meeting between Hanuman and 
his half-brother Bhima (Bhima was bom of Kunti by the power of Pavana, the wind-god). 
After Rama’s death, Hanuman was living in a mountain fastness spending his days in 
contemplation of his great master. Bhima, in his search for a mythical flower Draupadi 
wished to possess, happened to pass this forest and saw an old monkey sleeping across 
his path. He haughtily asked the monkey to get out of his way. The monkey wished to 
know who he was. Bhima gave a boastful account of himself and the greatness of the 
Pandava heroes ; upon this, the monkey asked him how such wonderful people happened 
to wander in the forests without a kingdom and how the beloved wife of such heroes was 
suffered to be insulted by Duryodhana. Bhima disdained to make answer but asked the 
monkey to clear the road. The monkey said that he was ailing and requested Bhima to 
step across him. But Bhima would not do this, because he said, of his respect for his half- 
brother Hanuman who was a monkey. Nor would he pass him by the head side. After 
some argument Bhima agreed to pass by the tail-side, but as he started to pass the tail this 
appendage of the monkey began to lengthen. After walking along the tail for about a 
league Bhima decided to lift it up with his club, which weapon, however, broke in the 
attempt. Now the Pandava knew he was dealing with no ordinary ape and he came back 
to Hanuman and asked him respectfully who he was. Hanuman smiled and disclosed his 
identity. He entertained Bhima with many talcs of ancient days, and described to him 
the feats performed by the monkeys in the Ramayana battle. Bhima requested Hanuman 
to show him the form he had assumed for jumping over to Lanka. Hanuman now stood 
up and began to increase in size ; but before he reached his full stature Bhima got frightened 
of the enormity of the form, fainted and fell down. Hanuman assumed a smaller size, 
revived his brother, gave him directions as to how to get the flower he was seeking and 
sent him on his adventurous task. 

Hanuman was famous not only for his physical strength but also for his learning. 
“The chief of the monkeys." says the Ramayana, "is perfect : no one equals him in 
the Shastras, in learning, and in ascertaining the sense of scriptures. In all sciences, 
in the rules of austerity, he rivals the preceptor of the gods.” Rama when he first met 
Hanuman in Sugriva's residence was much impressed by the learned discourse of Hanuman. 
He says : 


“One whose words so sweetly flow. 
And in his well-trained memory store 
The whole Rig Veda needs must know. 
The Yajush and the Saman's lore. 


He must have bent his faithful ear 
For his long speech how well he spoke ? 
All grammar’s varied rules to hear ; 

In. all its length no rule he broke.” 


Hanuman fa widely worshipped in India especially by the lower classes. In me 
oS his services to Rama, monkeys are held sacred. In many Indian cities they boldly 
about streets and public parks, molesting passers-by. 


In memory 
roam 



124 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


bent upon avenging his son, entered the stomachs of all the gods and they were afflicted with 
colic. The ailing Indra now apologized to Pavana (a name of the wind-god) and granted 
Hanuman a boon of immortality ; then Pavana left the gods who were relieved of their pain. 

In the search for Sita, Sugriva, the monkey-king, divided his army into four divi- 
sions and sent each division to search one of the four directions. Hanuman was specially 
selected to take charge of the southern division as, from available evidence, it was surmised 
that Ravana had carried off Sita southwards. He was also given the signet ring of Rama. 
The monkeys had but a hazy notion of where Lanka was ; nor could they be sure that 
Ravana had carried off Sita to Lanka and nowhere else. So Hanuman and the monkeys 
made a vigorous search in the sector under their charge till they came to the ocean. Here 
was an element the simians dreaded. They sat dejected in the woods near the seashore 
not knowing what to do. Then they saw Sampati, the vulture, brother of Jatayu, and the 
bird told them of Lanka, its fortifications, and its distance from the sea. But who would 
cross the sea ? "One monkey said he could bound over twenty leagues, and another fifty, 
and one eighty ; and Angada, Son of Bali, could cross over a hundred but his power would not 
avail for the return.' ' Now an old monkey related to Hanuman the feats of his childhood and 
observed that he (Hanuman) could jump over to Lanka and back if he would only realize his 
strength and divine origin. Hanuman meditated, drew strength from his meditation and felt 
confident of performing the task. He climbed to the top of the mountain Mahendra, shook 
his powerful body which began to increase in size and, when he felt he was equal to the task, 
roared like thunder and hurtled through the sky "like a mountain, his flashing eyes like forest 
fires, his lifted tail like Sakra's banner." 

While he was coursing through the sky, a Rakshasi named Saurasa opened her 
mouth to swallow him. The width of her distended mouth was one hundred leagues. 
Hanuman suddenly contracted himself to the size of a thumb, entered her mouth, assumed 
his vast form again and came out of her right ear, leaving her a ponderous carcass that 
crashed into the sea. 

On reaching Lanka, Hanuman reduced his size to that of a cat and wandered oyer the 
forts of Lanka. He saw the marvellous palaces of Ravana, built by Viswakanna himself. 
He even stole into the gaily decorated bed-chamber of Ravana where lie saw the king of 
Lanka sporting with the beautiful Mandodari (his chief wife) and several other ladies. 

After many adventures and hair-breath escapes in the well-guarded palaces and 
pleasure groves of Ravana, Hanuman at last saw Sita, and delivered his message. He also 
destroyed the park of Ravana, set fire to Lanka, as mentioned elsewhere, and returned to 
Rama. 

In the battle of Lanka, Rama and Lakshman were mortally wounded by the 
Rakshasas and nothing but the leaves of a herb that grew in the Himalayas could restore 
them to health. Hanuman was despatched to bring the herb. But Ravana had promised half 
his kingdom to anyone who could kill Hanuman, and Kalanenii, an ambitious giant, flew 
over to the Himalayas in advance of Hanuman and invited this hero, when he reached the 
mountain, to dinner. An Apsara whom Hanuman had accidentally released from the 
eifect of a curse, told him who his host was, and Hanuman caught Kalancmi by the leg and 
"whirled him through the air to Lanka where he fell before the throne of Ravana.". After 
thus disposing of Kalancmi, Hanuman began to look for the herb.. But due to a machi- 
nation of Indra he experienced some difficulty ^distinguishing the herb and hence he tore 
down the whole hill and flew with it towards Lanka. . While-he.was passing Ayodhya, the 
cyclone his course generated was mistaken by Bharata for the work of some evil spirit, ami 



• ANIMALS AND BIRDS 


125 

this king let fly an arrow which brought Hanuman down. Grieved at his mistake Bharata 
told Hanuman that he could rocket him to Lanka by means of another arrow, which offer 
the hero declined. Hanuman flew on his own strength with the hill, but on nearing Lanka, 
saw from his elevated position the moon about to rise. As the herb could have effect 
only before moonrise lie swallowed the moon, reached Lanka in time and revived the wound- 
ed heroes. 


Many more astounding talcs of Hanuman’s prodigious strength are told which, for 
wild exaggeration, have few parallels in the whole realm of mythology. 

In the Mahabharata is an interesting account of a meeting betw een Hanuman and 
his half-brother Bhima {Bhima was bom of Kunti by the power of Pavana, the wind^god). 
After Rama’s death, Hanuman was living in a mountain fastness spending his days in 
contemplation of his great master. Bhima, in his search for a mythical flower Draupadi 
wished to possess, happened to pass this forest and saw' an old monkey sleeping across 
his path. He haughtily asked the monkey to get out of his way. The monkey wished to 
know' who lie was. Bhima gave a boastful account of himself and the greatness of the 
Pandava heroes ; upon this, the monkey asked him how sucli wonderful people happened 
to wander in the forests without a kingdom and how the beloved wife of such heroes was 
suffered to be insulted by Duryodhana. Bhima disdained to make answer but asked the 
monkey to clear the road. The monkey said that he was ailing and requested Bhima to 
step across him. But Bhima would not do this, because lie said, of his respect for his half- 
brother Hanuman who was a monkey. Nor would he pass him by the head side. After 
some argument Bhima agreed to pass by the tail-side, but as he started to pass the tail this 
appendage of the monkey began to lengthen. After walking along the tail for about a 
league Bhima decided to lift it up with his club, which weapon, however, broke in the 
attempt. Now the Pandava knew he was dealing with no ordinary ape and he came back 
to Hanuman and asked him respectfully who he was. Hanuman smiled and disclosed his 
identity. He entertained Bhima with many talcs of ancient days, and described to him 
the feats performed by the monkeys in the Ramayana battle. Bhima requested Hanuman 
to show him the form he had assumed for jumping over to Lanka. Hanuman now' stood 
up and began to increase in size ; but before he reached his full stature Bhima got frightened 
of the enormity of tile form, fainted and fell down. Hanuman assumed a smaller size, 
revived his brother, gave him directions as to how to get the flower he was seeking and 
sent him on his adventurous task. 

Hanuman was famous not only for his physical strength but also for his learning. 
“The chief of the monkeys." says the Ramayana, “is perfect : no one equals mm m 
the Shastras, in learning, and in ascertaining the sense of scriptures. In all sciences, 
in the rules of austerity, he rivals the preceptor of the gods.” Rama when lie nrst met 
Hanuman in Sugriva's residence was much impressed by the learned discourse of Hanuman. 
He says : 


“One whose words so sweetly flow, 
And in his well-trained memory store 
The whole Rig Veda needs must know', 
The Yajush and the Saman’s lore. 


He must have bent his faithful ear 
For his long speech liow well he spoke ? 
All grammar's varied rules to hear ; 

In all its length no rule he broke.” 


Hanuman is widely worshipped in India especially by the lower classes In memory 
of his services to Rama, monkeys are held sacred. In many Indian Cities they boldly roam 
about streets and public parks, molesting passers-by. 



ANIMALS AND BIRDS 


127 


three worlds there was anyone greater than himself. Narada said there was none, but 
casually observed that while he was passing Kishkindha he heard the monkey-king’ Bali 
boasting that he could lay Ravana low by one blow of his right hand. The infuriated Asura 
immediately got his car Pushpaka ready and, with Narada, flew to Kishkindha to chastise 
the impertinent monkey. On reaching Kishkindha, Ravana found that Bali had gone to 
the Southern Ocean for his morning ablutions and directed his car southwards. He des- 
cended on the beach of the Southern Ocean and saw Bali sitting with his face towards 
the sea. He appeared like a mountain over-looking the sea. The sight of Bali somewhat 
cooled the ardour of Ravana, but Narada infused courage into him by observing that mere 
size was nothing compared to agility, and asked him to advance and pull the monkey by 
the tail. Ravana advanced cautiously and caught hold of Bali’s tail. Bali, undisturbed 
in his ablution, tied Ravana's hands with his tail. The king of Lanka now heaved hard 
to extricate himself, pressing his heads against Bali’s rump. Bah wound his tail round 
Ravana's heads and legs and, with him, jumped to the Northern, Western and Eastern 
Oceans and returned to Kishkindha. Twelve long years did Ravana remain in Bali’s tail ; 
at the end of this period Bali, in a moment of large-heartedness, liberated Ravana and 
sent him to Lanka with a warning. 

Bali, by his occult powers, could extract half the strength of any person whom he 
cared to look at. Hence aU who fought a face to face battle with Bali lost half their strength 
which Bali gained, and no one could defeat him in a straight fight. Rama killed him by a 
strategy which was not considered strictly honourable. He asked Sugriva to challenge 
Bali and hid himself behind a tree ; and while the two were fighting and Sugriva was getting 
the worst of it, Rama shot the arrow which mortally wounded Bali. Bali resented the 
cowardly act. He thus reproaches Rama : 


"What fame, from one thou hast not slain 
In front of battle, canst thou gain 
Whose secret hand has laid me low, 

When madly fighting with my foe ? 

I held that thou wouldst surely scorn 
To strike me as I fought my foe 


And thought not of a stranger’s blow. 
But now thine evil heart is shown, 

A yawning well, with grass overgrown ; 
Thou wearest virtue’s badge, but guile 
And meanest sin thy soul defile.’’ 


Rama gives the weak explanation that Bali was fated to be killed by him. The 
great monkey reconciles himself to his fate, and dies blessing his slayer. 

Bali’s son, Angada, fought on the side of Rama and distinguished himself in the 
battle of Lanka. 


JAMBAVAN 

This king of the bears was bom of Vishnu. The part he played in the battle of 
Lanka was not so noteworthy as that of Hanuman or Sugriva. After the victory Rama 
granted him a boon by which lie could be killed only by Vishnu. Like Hanuman he out- 
lived the Tretayuga, but was killed by Krishna in the Dwaparayuga. The following is the 
story of his death : 

Satrajit, a Yadava who dwelt in Dwaraka, by a rigorous course of austerities, ob- 
tained the solar gem Syamantaka from Suiya which yielded him eight stones of gold a 
day. Krishna happened to see the gem and expressed a desire to possess it. Satrajit, for 
obvious reasons, did not like to part with it and gave an evasive reply. Soon after tills, 
Prasena, Satrajit’s brother went out on a hunting expedition wearing the gem. Prasena 
strayed away from the main party, and was killed by a lion which took the gem ana went 
about the forest wearing the brilliant booty. Jambavan who was living in a cave in the 



128 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF tN'DLV 

forest happened to see Syamantaka and he killed the lion and took possession of the gem. 

But wild rumours spread in Dwaraka. Satrajit told people that Krishna had once 
asked him to make a present of the gem to him, and circulated rumours by which Krishna 
came to be believed as the murderer of Prasena. Krishna decided to find out the real 
cause of Prasena's death and clear his conduct. With a party of follow ers he set out on the 
trail of Prasena and, guided by the hoof-prints of his horse, reached the place where Prasena 
was killed by the lion. Thence he followed the foot-prints of the lion and came upon the 
forest in which that animal was killed by the bear. He started on the trail of the bear and 
reached the mouth of the cave where Jambavan lived. Krishna asked his followers to 
remain outside, and entered the cave. Jambavan challenged the intruder, and the two 
fought fiercely in the cave for twenty-one days at the end of which Jambavan was mortally 
wounded. Realization now r dawned upon the bear and he recognized in Krishna his master 
Rama. He surrendered the gem, gave his daughter in marriage to Krishna and died singing 
the praises of Vishnu. 

Krishna with his party returned to Dwaraka and gave the gem to Satrajit. This 
slanderer begged to be pardoned and, by way of expiation, gave his daughter Satyabbama 
in marriage to Krishna. 

In addition to the above described, many other simian demigods are mentioned in 
the Ramayana. Nala,* son of Viswakarma, was the engineer who planned the construction 
of the bridge. He was as good a craftsman as his renowned father. Sushena, son of 
Varuna, was a physician, and it was he who told Hanuman of the magic herb that restored 
Rama and Lakshman to health. 

None of these monkeys is, however, worshipped. That honour belongs solely to 
Hanuman. 

The Cow 

The cow does not appear to have been particularly sacred in the Vedic times. Refe- 
rences in the Vedas and even in the epics indicate that beef was considered bj’ ancient 
Hindus a desirable item of food. There are passages in the epics which describe how' even 
holy sages entertained their guests with beef and venison. The slaughter of cow's was 
probably prohibited for the advancement of agriculture at a time when this was a difficult 
occupation and men had to be compelled to take to it and leave off their ancient habit of 
killing cattle and feeding on their meat. 

Whatever the origin of the worship, the cow is at present held to be a sacred animal 
by the Hindus. She is not only venerated but act unity worshipped as a goddess. Accord- 
ing to current orthodox beliefs Gobatva {killing a cow) is as great a sin as Brahmahatya 
(killing a Brahmin). The dung and urine of the cow are also held sacred and are supposed 
to possess cleansing and magical properties. The ashes of cow-dung are often used to put 
sectarian marks. 

The donation of a cow to a Brahmin is an act of great merit. Tins form of charity 
is attended by a religious ceremony at the end of which the officiating priest holds the tail 
of the animal and recites the following prayer : 

"i. May the goddess, who is the Lakshmi of all beings, and resides among the 
gods, assume the shape of a milch cow, and procure me comfort. 

"2. May the goddess, who is Rudrani in a corporeal form and who is the beloved 
of Shiva, assume the shape of a milch cow and procure me comfort. 

• TJui nvoaitj is a ot to b* ocafaicU mtb Nili. tes of tie story .SYi Dam jyja.V 



PLATE LXY 








ANIMALS AND BIRDS 


129 


“3. May she, who is Lakshmi reposing on the bosom of Vishnu ; she, who is the 
Lakshmi of the regent of riches ; she, who is the Lakshmi of kings, be a boon-granting 
cow to me. 

"4. May she, who is the Lakshmi of Brahma ; she who is Swaha, the wife of fire, 
she who is the exerted power of the sun, moon and stars, assume the shape of a milch cow 
for my prosperity. 

"5. Since thou art Swadha, the food of them who are the chief among the manes 
of ancestors, and Swaha, the consuming power of them who eat solemn sacrifices, there- 
fore, being the cow that expiates every sin, procure me comfort. 

”6. I invoke the goddess, who is endowed with the attributes of all the gods, who 
confers all happiness, who bestows abodes in all the worlds, for the sake of all people. 

"7. I pray to that auspicious goddess of immortality and happiness.' ' 

Persons strict in their devotions daily worship the cow early in the morning before 
going on their daily duties. “First they throw flowers at her feet ; then feed her with 
grass saying : ‘O Bhagavati, (goddess), eat !’ then walk round her seven times and make 
obeisance to her.” 

The cow together with the Brahmin was created by Brahma on the first day of 
Vaisakh (April-May) and hence tins day is sacred to her. 

One of the heavens is named after the cow. 

The boon-granting cow Saurabhi, as already related, rose from the miik-occan. 
There is some confusion as to her nature and identity. Kamadhenu, Nandini and Shabala 
are said to be her different names in some accounts while others maintain that they arc her 
daughters. 

The milch cow with her calf is a favourite subject with Hindu artists and she is 
symbolic of felicity and plenty. The cow was a favourite of Krishna when he lived as a 
herdsman in Vrindavan. 

Nandi, Shiva’s bull, is an object of worship among the Shaivas, 

The Horse 

Although the horse is very frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda, this animal has 
never been an object of worship. But Aswamedha (horse-sacrifice) is the greatest sacrifice 
a king can perform. Only those monarchs who aspire to universal dominion can perform 
it. Prior to the performance of the sacrifice a horse with auspicious marks is let loose to 
wander at will for a year. An army follows the horse and anyone who stops the horse 
is considered an enemy and his act a challenge to the owner of the horse. He has to be 
conquered. After a year, the horse is led back, and a grand sacrifice and feasting take 
place. 

Rama in the Tretayuga and Yudhishtira in the Dwaparayuga performed this sacrifice 
and were acclaimed world-victors. 

The Doc 

The connection between death and the dog has already been noticed. Although the 
dog is now considered by the Hindus as an unclean animal, in a hymn of the Rig V eda. 
Surya himself is identified with the dog. The hymn runs thus : 



130 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


"He (the sun) flies through the air, looking down upon all beings ; we desire to do 
homage with Havis to thee (who art) the majesty of the heavenly dog, 

"In the waters is thy origin, in heaven thy abode, in the midst of the sea and upon 
the earth thy greatness. That which is the majesty of the heavenly dog, under that form 
we worship thee with this Havis." 

The following popular story is told of how the dog came to be the servant of man. 

Brahma created the dog and sent him to the earth with a command to serve the 
most powerful creature on earth. The dog wandered in the forests of the earth and came 
upon the elephant. Seeing his ponderous form, the dog very naturally took him for the 
mightiest creature on earth, and requested him to accept him as his servant. The elephant 
readily agreed. But when night fell, the wind blew and leaves rustled, the dog barked. 
"Dog," said the elephant, "do not bark. This is the hour of Night and the lion is abroad ; 
if he hears you he will kill you." "Then,” said the dog, “the lion is more powerful than 
you." And he left the elephant and went to the lion. The lion accepted him as his servant. 
But when night fell, the wind blew and leaves rustled, the dog baiked. "Dog," said the 
lion, "do not bark. This is the hour of Night and the hunter is abroad. If he hears you, 
he will kill you." “Then," said the dog, "the hunter is more powerful than you." He 
left the lion and went to the hunter. At night when the wind blew and leaves rustled, the 
dog barked and the hunter approved of it. Hence the dog stayed with the hunter. 

The Cat 

This animal is the charger of Shashti, a goddess of some local importance in Bengal, 
and is hence sacred to her. The story is told of a Brahmin girl who stealthily ate food and, 
when enquiries were made, accused a cat of the theft ; on account of which sin she lost her 
eight children. On performing a propitiatory ceremony in honour of Shashti’s cat, the 
goddess restored the children to her. 

A cat crossing one’s path is considered an ill-omen, and a devout Hindu would 
rather return home than continue his journey along the same path. 

Serpents 

The feeling of dread and repugnance venomous reptiles universally inspire, is shared 
by the Hindus too. It was probably their dreaded powers that led to the deification of 
serpents. In Hindu scriptures snakes are in some places mentioned as the enemies of 
mankind and in others as deities. Originally the Indo-Aryans were averse to snake- 
worship, but later Hinduism absorbed some races who worshipped snakes and with them 
their beliefs. 

The Nagas (snakes), are fabled to live in a magnificent world named Patala, situated 
in tbe nether regions. There "dwell the lords of snake-region, Vasuki, Sankha, Kulika, 
Mahasankha, Sweta, Dhananjaya, Dhritarashtra, Sankhachurna, Kambala, Aswatara, 
Devadatta and other large-hearted serpents. Of these some have five hoods, some seven, 
some ten and some a thousand. The gloom of the nether regions is lighted up by the 
splendour of the excellent gems gracing their hoods." 

The capital of the serpent-world is Bhogawati, a city famed for its wealth. The 
serpents there are in possession of the best precious stones in the worlds. 

The Nagas are said to be the progeny of ICadru (one of the wives of Kasyapa) and 
mortal enemies of their half-brother Garuda. Because of its habit of sloughing its skin. 



ANIMALS AND BIRDS 


131 

the serpent is believed to be immortal. It is said that once when Garuda was taking 
ambrosia from heaven to PataJa, he happened to drop some of the nectar on the earth 
which fell on Kusa grass and snakes greedily licked it up and became immortal. They, 
however, burnt their tongues and hence they have forked tongues. 

The chief of the serpents is said to be Ananta, the thousand-hooded hydra, on whom 
Vishnu sleeps. The earth is poised on one of his hoods. The word Ananta means 'endless'. 
The serpent, particularly one eating its tail, is indicative of eternity. 

While Ananta and Vasuki {Shiva wears this serpent as his girdle) are objects of 
veneration, Kaliya is said to represent sin. This cobra inhabited the river Kalindi (Jumna) 
and was, as noted elsewhere, a cause of anxiety to the herdsmen among whom Krishna 
lived. The boy Krishna, one day, entered the river and, after a fierce combat, subdued the 
monstrous reptile. At the request of the wives of Kaliya, Krishna spared his life but made 
him depart from Kalindi. The story of this combat is very popular among the Hindus, and 
Krishna is very often represented as a boy dancing on the hood of Kaliya. 

Nagapanchami, the fifth day of the Hindu month of Shravan (July- August) is sacred 
to snakes and they are particularly worshipped on this day. 

Garuda 

This charger of Vishnu is a mythical combination of man and bird. He is an object 
of great veneration. 

Garuda, was bom of an egg laid by Vinata, one of the wives of Kasyapa. In the 
Vishnu Pur ana it is related that the egg was laid by Diti and not Vinata. 

Once Kadru (mother of serpents) and Vinata (mother of Garuda) had an argument 
between them respecting the colour of the horse that rose out of the milk ocean, and they 
laid a wager by which the loser was to be the other's slave. Garuda's mother lost, and 
she was imprisoned by the serpents in the nether regions. Garuda prayed for her release 
but the serpents asked him, by way of ransom, to bring the moon to them so that they could 
feast on the nectar in the moon. Garuda started lor the regions of the moon, but, on the 
way felt hungry. While passing the regions of the pole-star he met his father Kasyapa 
(Uranus) and asked him if anything edible could be obtained there. Kasyapa directed 
his son to a lake where Garuda saw a tortoise and an elephant fighting. "I he tortoise 
was eighty miles long and the elephant one hundred and sixty. Garuda with one claw 
seized the elephant, with the other the tortoise and perched with them on a tree eight 
hundred miles high. But the tree was unable to bear his ponderous weight, and, unhappily, 
thousands of pigmy Brahmins were then worshipping on one of its branches. Trembling, 
lest he should destroy any of them, he took the bough in liis beak, continued to hold the 
elephant and tortoise in his claws, and flew to a mountain in an uninhabited country where 
he finished his repast on the tortoise and elephant." 

After many more adventures of a like nature, Garuda reached the regions of the 
moon, seized him, concealed him under the wing and started on his return flight. The 
gods, determined to regain the moon, attacked Garuda and, after an indecisive action, 
came to terms with him. Vishnu made him immortal and promised him a higher seat 
than his own. Garuda, on his part agreed to become the charger of Vishnu. Since then, 
“Vishnu rides upon Garuda while the latter, in the shape of a flag, sits at the top 
of Vishnu's car." 



132 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


Garuda was of immense help to Rama in the battle of Lanka. When Rama, 
Lakshman and the monkey heroes were struck down by the Nagastras (snake-arrows), 
of Indrajit, Garuda appeared before Rama and gave him Garudastras (eagle-arrows) which 
counteracted the effect produced by Nagastras. The coming of Garuda is thus described 
in the Ramayana : 

“The rushing wind grew loud. 

Red lightnings flashed from banks of cloud. 

The mountains shook, the wind waves rose. 

And smitten by resistless blows. 

Uprooted fell each stately tree 
That fringed the margin of the sea. 

And life within the waters feared : 

Then, as the Vanars gazed, appeared 

Garuda is said to be the king of birds. One of the Pur anas [Guruda Parana) is named 
after him, but in this Garuda does not occupy a place important enough to justify the name. 
His exploits are chiefly narrated in the epics. 

Sampati and Jatayu 

These were the sons of Garuda and are mentioned in the Ramayana as "mighty 
vultures of size and strength unparalleled.’ ’ They lived in the Southern forests, and we 
have elsewhere noticed how Jatayu intercepted the course of Ravana and was mortally 
wounded by him. 

Sampati lived long enough to avenge his brother. The monkeys, who were searching 
for Sita in the southern quarter, came upon him and he soared high into the sky, had a view 
of Lanka and described it in detail to Hanuman. This hero worked on the instructions 
given by Sampati and found Sita in the Asoka grove. 

The Mythical Origin of Sparrows and Partridges 

Viswakarma had a son named Viswarupa. He had three heads called the Soma- 
drinker, the Wine-drinker and the Food-eater. In public, Viswarupa posed as a friend of 
the gods but secretly he aided the Asuras in many ways. Indra came to know of this 
double-dealing and he cut off Viswarupa's heads which were turned into birds. “The 
Soma-drinker became a Kapinjala (Francoline partridge), for Soma was of a brown colour ; 
the Wine-drinker became Kalavinka (sparrow), because when men are intoxicated they 
make a noise like a sparrow ; the Food-eater became Tittiri (partridge) which consequently 
has a great variety of colour, for its body appears to be sprinkled with ghee and honey. 

“Viswakarma, enraged because Indra had slain his son, made a libation to the 
gods, but did not invite Indra to it. _ Indra noticing the slight, by force look the vessel 
containing the Soma juice, and drank it. Viswakarma in anger broke off the sacrifice, and 
used the few drops of Soma left to give effect to a curse. He employed the right formula 
for accomplishing the death of Indra, but unfortunately laid stress on the wrong word. So, 
instead of slaying Indra, he was himself slain by him.”* 


King Garud's self, a wondrous sight, 
Disclosed in flames of fiery light. 
From his fierce eye in sudden dread 
All serpents in a moment fled ; 

And those transformed to shafts, that 
bound 

The princes, vanished in the ground.” 


Hindu Myliolegy, W. J. WiUdn*. 



CHAPTER XI 


TREES, PLANTS AND FLOWERS 

I N the Vedas, Soma is addressed as the deity representing the liquor-yielding plant 
Soma.* "Not only are all the hymns of the ninth book of the Rig Veda, one hundred 
and fourteen in number, besides a few in other places, dedicated to his honour, but 
constant references occur to him in a large proportion of other hymns. In some of these 
hymns he is extolled as the creator or father of the gods. Evidently at that time he was a 
most popular deity. Indra was an enthusiastic worshipper of Soma.” 

In the Vedas, it is said that the plant was originally a native of the mountains where 
the Gandharvas lived and the goddess Vach (Sarasvati) "went to the Gandharvas" who 
gave it to her. But when Vach brought it to the gods there arose a dispute among them 
as to who should have the first draught. "At length this was decided by a race. Vayu 
first reached the goal, Indra being second. Indra tried hard to win but when near the 
winning post proposed that they should reach it together, Vayu taking two-thirds of the 
drink. Vayu said, ‘Not so I I will be the wanner alone.' Then Indra said, ‘Let us come 
together, and give me one-fourth of the draught divine.' Vayu consented to this and so 
the juice was shared between them." 

The following is one of the hymns addressed to Soma : 

“This Soma is a god ; he cures And cry in loud exulting strains : 

The sharpest ills that man endures ‘We've quaffed the Soma bright 

He heals the sick, the sad he cheers, And arc immortals grown ; 

He nerves the weak, dispels their fears ; We’ve entered into light, 

The faint with martial ardour fires. And all the gods have known. 

With lofty thoughts the bard inspires What mortal now can harm 

The soul from earth to heaven he lifts ; Or foeman vex us more ? 

So grrat and wondrous are his gifts. Through thee, beyond alarm 

Men feel the god within their veins, Immortal god, we soar.’ " 

From this hymn it is clear that Vedic Aryans used to indulge in drink. The use of 
spirituous liquor was later prohibited and the worship of Soma given up. The reason 
for this is said to be that Brahma in a state of drunkenness committed incest with his 
daughter, and cursed intoxicants. In another account it is said Sukra, who happened to 
drink the ashes of his disciple Kacha in a cup of wine.f cursed liquor and prohibited its use. 
The real reason was probably a realization of the superiority of sobriety over drunkenness. 

Soma later came to be considered identical with the moon. It was probably due to 
his connection with the Soma drink that the moon came to be known as the receptacle of 
Amrita, nectar. 


The Tulsi Plant {Ocimum Sanctum) 

This plant is sacred to Vishnu. Its leaves are supposed to possess medicinal proper- 
ties. Orthodox Hindus plant it in their gardens and compounds and worship it. 

• 'The Som-plant ol the Rig Vti» is the Auuftas of Roxburgh. It U a creeping plant. almost destitute of kirn. 
It hi. small white fragrant flowers collected round the extjetaibes of the branches. Roxburgh rays that it yields purer milky 
juice thus any other plant that he knows : and that Urn juice and. and of an and nature. The tender shoots are often plucked 
by native travellers. It grows on the hills of the Punjab, in Bo Ian Pass, in the neighbour hoed of Poona, etc. In the Brahmana 
ol Rig VtJn (1 laugh's Translation) is a most interesting account of the Soma s a cn h c c. This u occaaicna2y made in the present 
day, bat very few priests are acquainted with the ritual of this once celebrated sa cr ifi ce " — W . J. Wilkins ; liml* AT fUciopr. 
The correct identity of the plant is, however, a much disputed subject, 
f See the story of Kacha and Dcvayani in Chapter VT* 



*34 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


The legend that traces its relationship to Vishnu is curious. It is the story of a 
ravisher turned lover and husband. 

Tulsi was the wife of Jalandhar, an Asura bom of the sweat of Mahadeva which 
fell in the sea. Jalandhar performed austerities and obtained a boon by which he was to 
be invincible so long as his wife remained faithful to him. Tulsi or rather Vrinda (this 
was her name as the wife of Jalandhar) was famous in the three worlds for her conjugal 
fidelity, and her husband thought himself invincible for all time. He now sent a message 
to Indra asking him to return the fourteen gems which he and the other gods had churned 
out of the ocean. Because of his birth from the sea, Jalandhar claimed overlordship of 
the ocean and held that the churning of the ocean was an act of piracy. Indra, however, 
thought otherwise, and refused to return the gems. War was declared and Indra, in a 
panic, ran to Shiva and Vishnu for help. Coming to know from Brahma the secret of 
Jalandhar's invincibility, Shiva, always proud of his personal attractions, went to Vrinda, 
asked her to desert her husband and follow him, and was driven out of the place. Vishnu 
now assumed the form of Jalandhar himself and succeeded in ravishing Vrinda. This lady 
discovered the fraud, too late though, and cursed Vishnu to become a stone. (Thus the 
origin of the Salagrama stone, the sacred ammonite found on the bed of the river Gandaki.) 
Vishnu also cursed her and she became the Tulsi plant. 

In course of time the incident was forgotten and Tulsi came to be considered the 
beloved wife of Vishnu. 

A story is told how even Rukmini, the cliief wife of Krishna, and an incarnation 
of Lakshmi, gave pride of place to Tulsi. Narada, one day, visited Satyabhama, one of the 
wives of Krishna, and this lady confided to the sage that she wished to obtain Krishna as 
her husband in all her future births, and asked him how this could be done. Narada said 
that the best way of ensuring this was to give her husband to Narada himself, as anything 
given to a Brahmin could be depended upon to return to the giver in future births in mam- 
told forms. Carried away by Narada's eloquence Satyabhama gave her husband to Narada, 
and the latter asked Krishna to work as his page, gave him his Vina to carry and proceeded, 
towards the celestial regions. The other wives of Krishna, on coming to know of this,' 
rushed to the sage and implored him to return their husband. They reviled Satyabhama 
for her presumption, and this lady repented of her rash act and requested Narada to return 
Krishna to her. Narada now disclosed to them that it was a sin to receive anything in 
charity from a Brahmin and told them they could buy their husband from him if they cared 
to. He was asked to name his price and he demanded Krishna's weight in gold. The 
ladies piled up their ornaments in one pan of the scales, but when Krishna sat in the other 
this one came down with a thud. Now they sent for Rukmini who was not in the crowd. 
She came with a leaf of the Tulsi plant, asked the ladies to remove the ornaments from the 
pan and, when this was done, placed the leaf in the pan when Krishna was lifted upwards 
in the other. 

Rukmini now told all the ladies that Tulsi was more beloved to Krishna than any 
of them. 

On the eleventh day of Kartik (October-November) a ceremony is performed in 
honour of Tulsi and her marriage with Vishnu. "This ceremony marks the opening of 
the annual marriage season among high caste Hindus. It is said that he who performs this 
marriage ceremony assuming that Tulsi is his daughter, gets all the benefits of Kanyadan 
(giving away a daughter in marriage), a very meritorious act.” 

‘ Kusa grass ( Poa cynosuroidcs) and Durva grass (Agrostis linearis) are considered 
sacred, and form part of the offerings made to the gods in the various forms of worship. 



TREES, PLANTS AND FLOWERS 


135 


The Banyan tree (the Indian fig tree) is sacred to Vishnu. Because of its longevity 
and nature of dropping roots from the branches, the tree is considered immortal. Narayana 
sucking his toe (a symbol of eternity) is represented as lying on a Vat (Banyan) leaf. 

The Peepal ( Ftciis religiosa ) is sacred to the Trinity. “It is frequented by all the 
gods and is hence very sacred. No one should touch it. Women should worship it, and 
go round it a thousand times in one day. In the Shravan Mahalmya, it is ordained that this 
tree should be worshipped on every Saturday of the month of Shravan (July-August). 
Saint Vaikhilya tells us that Vishnu becomes a Peepal. The thread ceremony of this tree 
is strongly recommended along with its marriage with Tulsi. Its dry twigs are used in the 
worship of the sacred fixe (to feed it)." 

The Parijata Tree 

This mythical tree rose out of the milk ocean and Indra planted it in his garden. 
“Its bark was of gold, and it was embellished with young sprouting leaves of a copper 
colour, and fruit-stalks bearing numerous clusters of fragrant fruits." 

It is related that once Narada brought a flower of this tree to Dwaraka and presented 
it to his friend Krishna. He waited to see to which of his wives Krishna gave the flower. 
The flower was given to Rukmini, and Narada went straight to Satyabhama and made a 
show of sorrow. On her enquiring why he was not in good cheer, the sage told Satyabhama 
that he had presented Krishna with a flower of the Parijata tree thinking that she (Satya- 
bhama) was his favourite wife and he w-ould present it to her, but was grieved to find that 
Krishna had given it to Rukmini. Satyabhama’s jealousy was roused and she asked Narada 
what could be done to spite Rukmini. The sage advised her to ask Krishna to bring the 
Parijata tree itself from heaven and plant it near her house. After giving this advice, he 
went back to the celestial region and told Indra to guard the Parijata tree carefully as 
thieves were about. 

Satyabhama repaired to the anger-chamber,* and when Krishna came to her she 
reviled him for cheating her. “You pretend that I am your favourite wife, but treat me 
as Rukmini's handmaid," she said, and asked him what made him present the Parijata 
flower to Rukmini. Krishna admitted his guilt and asked her what he could do in expiation. 
She wanted possession of the Parijata tree. Krishna immediately proceeded to Amaravati, 
stole into Indra’s grove and started uprooting the tree. The king of the gods came upon 
the scene and caught the thief red-handed ; but seeing who his despoiler was, he allowed 
him, after some show of resentment, to take the tree to Dwaraka. 

It is fabled that, after Krishna’s death, Dwaraka was submerged in the ocean and 
the Parijata tree was taken back to heaven. 


• Ancient Hindu kings who had more than one wife had a room or hotue.^alled anger -chamber, rer apart for a dlssati'Srd 
queen to occupy and demand redress of hex grievances. 1 



CHAPTER XII 


PRINCIPAL HINDU HOLIDAYS 

T *-0 the Hindus every day is a holy day. Sunday is sacred to the Sun, Monday to the 
Moon, Tuesday to Mars, Wednesday to Mercury, Thursday to Jupiter, Friday to 
Venus and Saturday to Saturn. There are particular ceremonies and Pujas to be 
performed on each day and those who have the time, patience and necessary faith perform 
them scrupulously. Again, every day is sacred to the moon, and appropriate ceremonies 
have to be performed in accordance with the varying influence of the waxing or waning 
moon, which takes into consideration the moon’s relationship with other planets and its 
course through the signs of the lunar zodiac. Nor should the influence of the varying 
position o£ the sun be overlooked. Based upon the movements of these heavenly bodies 
and theiT supposed influence on mortals is an elaborate system of fasts, feasts and cere- 
monies which are supported by appropriate legends and fables, explaining their origin 
and enumerating the benefits obtainable by observing them. In addition to these 'astro- 
logical* holidays there are festivals which have a historical significance, and commemorate 
prehistoric victories, migrations, birthdays of deified heroes and coronations of important 
kings. But all these are so mixed up that of any particular festival it is well-nigh impossible 
to say what its real origin and significance are. Again, each province and sect have their 
favourite holidays which are unimportant to others. 

It is quite impossible to enumerate in one chapter all the holidays of the Hindus and 
describe their folklore in detail. The more important of the holidays and the salient features 
in their folklore and observance are given below.* 

"Vishnu apportioned four chief holidays among the four Varnas or castes." The 
Brahmins have to observe Rakhi Pumima, the Kshatriyas Dasara, the Vaisyas Divali and 
the Sudras Holi as the principal holidays. 

Rakhi Purnima 

This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month Shravan (July- 
August). The presiding deity of this gala day is Varuna, the sea-god. Fairs are held on the 
seashore or river banks to which people flock in large numbers. There are ceremonial 
baths, and offerings are made to Varuna. The chief characteristic of the festival is the 
throwing of cocoanuts into the sea as offerings. Labourers pick up these cocoanuts, hawk 
them and ply a vigorous trade. Because of the prominent part cocoanuts play in the 
celebrations, Rakhi Pumima is also known as Narali Pumima (literally, cocoanut-full- 
moon), or, in popular parlance, Cocoanut Day. 

The higher castes renew their sacred threads on this day. 

Another interesting feature of the Cocoanut Day is the tying of amulets of ‘silk- 
thread, silver wire, gold wire, corals, pearls, jewels or gold beads according to means’ on 
the wrists of men by their sisters. Women who wish to honour strangers and recognize 
them as their brothers also tie amulets on the wrists of such persons. Colonel Tod claims, 
he was once thus honoured by a Rajput princess. 

Dasara 

This grand festival takes place as the culmination of Navratra (nine nights) cele- 
brations. The Navratra begins on the first night of Aswin (September-October) and lasts 

* For the folklore of most of the holidays I am indebted to Rai Bahadur G. A. Gupta's Book Hi ridu Holidays. 

I3& 



L \KS!DU» GODDESS. OF WEVLTH. 
SHE IS WORSHIPPED ON' 
DIVALI D\Y 
(from Madeyur) 


DAS AHA CELEBRATION, MYSORE 
(Copyright : Archa-ological Department of India) 





vCrur voana 



THE I EAST Or SLRPENTS 
(I rum a painting b> Sol\yns) 


PLATE LXXII 



HINDU MARRIAGE CEREMONY 


PRINCIPAL HINDU HOLIDAYS 


137 

for nine nights. Each night (and day too) is sacred to one of the manifestations of Durga, 
and the goddess is worshipped in the form of an unmarried girl. The girl representing the 
goddess "should be healthy, beautiful and free from eruptions. She should be of the same 
caste as the devotee.” One girl may be worshipped on nine days, or nine girls in one day. 
In the latter case the worship should take place on the fifth day which is particularly sacred 
to Durga, and is known as Lalita Panchami. 

During the nine days of Navratra, the devotees of Devi either fast or take only one 
meal a day. Those weak in faith, who find it difficult to observe the fast for nine days, 
may fast for seven, five or three days. Certain ceremonies are performed and magic 
formulae repeated by priests. Bralunins are fed and given cash and clothes. As Navratra 
is sacred to Durga it is also called Durga Puja or Durgotsava. 

The fast of Navratra is said to be observed in memory of a similar fast Rama 
observed to propitiate Durga when he was fighting the battle of Lanka. On the eighth day 
of Navratra Rama killed Ravana. On the ninth, he performed a sacrifice as thanksgiving, 
and on the tenth he started on his journey to Ayodhya, in memory of which Dasara 
is celebrated. 

This festival used to be celebrated in right royal fashion by Hindu kings. Early 
in the morning the gadi (throne) was worshipped with the attendant ceremonies. Then 
there was a parade of elephants, horses and chariots. The elephants and horses, as they 
marched past the standard, turned to the Maharajah who occupied for the purpose a 
prominent place, and saluted him by appropriate gestures. At the end of the 'marchpast' 
ceremony, Brahmins were paid cash or presented with clothes and the morning Durbar 
was dissolved. 

"At about three o’clock in the afternoon the whole army of tire state, consisting of 
artillery, cavalry, infantry, etc., is ready in full dress to take part in the great procession. 
The elephants, about a hundred in number, are arranged in front of the palace according 
to the ranks of the Sardars who are privileged to ride them, and the palace officer and his 
assistants busy themselves calling out the names under which each of the animals has 
been registered, and despatching them to the residences of the Sardars for whom they 
are intended. All arrive at the palace in good time, with their mounted orderlies and 
silver-sticks or Chopdars. The whole army is arranged ; some in front of the palace for 
the procession as orderlies and some on the 'Dasara-maidan' where the sacrifice is scheduled 
to take place. The route is duly lined with soldiers and guards. Wien everything is 
ready, the standard-bearer’s elephant is brought forward to the front of the main gate of 
the palace. He carries, in addition to the standard, the Danka or war-drum. Silence 
prevails for a few minutes, all standing expectant at the near approach of the Maharajah. 
As soon as the Maharajah’s elephant issues out of the chief gate, the war-drum is sounded 
by the command of the head of the army who salutes His Highness. On receiving this 
signal, the few selected Sardars who are privileged to take their elephants inside the gate 
to wait on the Maharajah, come out one after another, the rest, who had to wait outside 
the quadrangle, joining the profession in rank and file. For about a mile or two the pageant 
goes in full swing followed by spectators of all sorts. At the boundary of the city, the Agent 
to the Governor General, who had previously fixed his camp there, receives the Maharajah.” 

• “The Maharajah alights and sits on a carpet spread under a Shami tree ( Prosopis 
spicigera) where arrangements have already been made for the sacrifice. At the end of a 
Puja, the Maharajah cuts with a sword a calabash fruit ( Cucurbiia pepo), symbolic of the 
animal sacrifice which used to be a part of the ceremony in ancient days.” After the sacri* 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


138 

fice, the branches of the Shami tree are "looted" by the Sardars who ‘call the leaves gold 
for the time being’. "This done, the Maharajah mounts his elephant, and so do the 
Sardars. A royal salute accosts His Highness and before he turns back a buffalo is sacri- 
ficed.* On its return, journey the whole procession is greeted with bonfires and fireworks, 
intermixed with shouts of ‘Sriman Maharajah Vijayi Khava’ (may success follow the 
Maharajah). On arrival of the Maharajah at the palace, another Durbar is held and 
Khillats distributed according to rank." 

With the disappearance of the Princes in India, this ancient festival is losing much 
of its grandeur. 

Dasara is considered an auspicious day for starting military expeditions. Children 
in some parts of India begin their education on this day. Books are also worshipped on 
the Dasara day. 

Divali 

This is the New Year Day of the Hindus who follow the Vikrain era. The festival 
falls in October-November. Different legends are narrated to account for its origin. One 
is obviously that king Vikramaditya was crowned on this day. Another tells us that Bali 
was deprived of his kingdom by Vishnu on this day. “In Maharashtra women prepare 
effigies of Bali either in rice-flour or cow-dung, according to grade, worship them and repeat 
the blessing . 'May all evil disappear, and Rajah Bali's empire be restored.’ ” 

A third story is that Vishnu killed Narakasura (a demon of filth) on Divali day. 
The most popular belief, however, is that Rama, on his return from Lanka, was crowned 
on this day. 

It is probable that Divali was originally celebrated in honour of Rama’s coronation, 
and Vikramaditya selected this day as the most auspicious for his own coronation ; hence 
the coincidence of the two important events. 

The word ‘Divali’ is a corrupt form of ‘Deepavali* (cluster of lights) and the festival 
is so called because of the illuminations that form the most important feature of the 
celebrations. In some parts of India effigies of Narakasura or Ravana are made and burnt. 
"In Bengal it is believed that the night of the Pitris begins at this time and lamps are lighted 
on long poles to serve as a guide to these benighted souls.” Krishna and Govardhana 
mountain are also worshipped on this day. 

Hindu merchants renew their account books, white-wash their offices and houses and 
generally ‘begin a new life 1 on the New Year Day. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is 
particularly worshipped for prosperity in the coming year. Presents are given to relatives, 
friends and subordinates. There are also the usual pageants of gaily dressed men, women 
and children who flock to fairs, temples and public parks. Children particularly look 
forward to this day as the "festival of fireworks and sweet -meats.” 

On Divali day, it is considered auspicious to gamble. Legends say that Shiva 
gambled with his wife on this day, lost everything and was driven in penury to the banks 
of the Ganges. Kartikeya seeing his father's plight, learnt the art of gambling, challenged 
his mother to a contest, won everything from her and restored his father to his former state 
of opulence. Ganesha now saw- the misery of his mother, leamt the art of gambling and 
defeated his brother. - There were some more reverses and domestic troubles, but 

. • In memory of Durga* triumph o\ er Mahisha, the buffalo demon. 



• PRINCIPAL HINDU, HOLIDAYS * 


139 

subsequently there was reconciliation, on account of which Shiva declared the day as 
auspicious for gambling. 

Holi 

The Holi is the Saturnalia of the Hindus, and the most popular holiday among the 
lower classes. It is a fertility festival which heralds the spring, and occurs in the month 
of Phalgun (February-March). There are many interesting theories which explain its 
origin. According to some traditions, the festival is celebrated in honour of Krishna’s 
triumph over the female fiend Putana whom he killed while taking breast. The myth is 
symbolic of the death of Winter. 

Another popular belief is that Kama was burnt to death by Shiva on this day. In 
South India the songs sung on the occasion of the festival include lamentations of Rati 
on the death of her husband. The chief features of the Holi celebrations used to be singing 
of lewd songs, sprinkling of coloured water on one another, rowdy crowds and a general 
atmosphere of license. Processions of drunkards singing obscene songs, and dancing, 
were seen parading the streets, particularly in the Punjab. At present, spraying of coloured 
water is the main feature of the festival. Women on this day take care to keep indoors. 
They too, however, celebrate the festival by sprinkling coloured water on one another, 
or on their brothers and near male relatives. 

Even serious old men relax on this day, and meekly suffer themselves to be surprised 
and painted by women and children. Fools are at times sent on idle errands to friends. 

"In some parts of the Madras Presidency a mock-fight takes place between men 
and women. A woman takes a bundle of sheaves and ascends a tree, and the men try to 
capture the bundle, the women trying to prevent them from doing so. At Indore, the 
trading classes erect a colossal figure, made of straw and clay, of Nathuram (a divinity of 
local importance), about forty feet high. Owing to an objectionable feature, this was 
prohibited, but the Durbar received a numerously signed petition and sanctioned the 
resumption of the practice on certain conditions. 

"On the fifth day after the chief fire ceremonials, presumably representing the 
cremation of the season, a grand Durbar takes place in the Native States, in which coloured 
powders and fluids are thrown at the Sardars and Officials. It is called Rangpanchami, 
and is also observed by people in their houses to mark the conclusion of the festivities." 

Mahashivaratra 

This festival falls in the month of Magha (January-February). It is preceded by a 
night of vigil and fasting in honour of Shiva- (hence Shivaratra; Malta means great) and 
during the day ample amends are made for the fasting. 

It is said that Shivaratra (the festival is also called Shivaratri) originated from a 
legend of an accidental fast and vigil of a hunter who, on account of this, became a lover 
of animals and a saint of Shiva. The following is the story of this conversion. 

An uncouth hunter named Lubdhaka was arrested by his creditors and confined in a 
temple of Shiva. There he heard the devotees chanting the name of Shiva and wondered 
what it meant. In the evening he was released by a devotee who paid off the debt on' his 
behalf. On his regaining freedom the hunter went straight to the forest to seek game and 
hid himself in the foliage of a Bel tree {Aegle warmelos the leaves of this tree, are sacred to 
Shiva) under which was a hidden Lingam. The hunter while clearing the foliage happened 



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EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


to drop some leaves on the Lingam, an act of great merit. He also repeated, by way of 
diversion, ‘Shiva ! Shiva ! ! in the manner the devotees did in the temple of Shiva where 
he had been detained by his creditors. The fellow did not understand what it meant ; 
all the same it added to his merit. 

By nightfall there came to the tank near the tree on which he remained hidden, a 
doe big with young. He drew his bow and took aim, when the doe saw him and prayed 
him to spare her life. She told him that another doe was following her and he could kill 
her ; if he would not agree to that, she would go home, deliver her young and give it to her 
friends and return to be killed. She also told him that she was an Apsara, who, on account 
of her neglect to dance before the idol of Shiva, had been cursed to become a doe and live 
with an Asura who had been turned into a black buck. The hunter, by virtue of his 
repeating the name of Shiva, had by now become half a lover of animals, and he made 
the doe swear that she would return, and let her go. 

Lubdhaka sat on the Bel tree repeating the name of Shiva. He had been starving 
throughout the day and evening. By midnight when he felt the fiercest pangs of hunger, 
there came another doe. She was restless and apparently seeking her mate. He drew 
his bow, when the doe saw him and begged him to leave her to find her mate, after which, 
she promised to return to be killed. In spite of his hunger and a wasted day, Lubdhaka 
let her go. 

Presently came a black buck seeking his mate. The hunter aiming his arrow at 
him, the buck requested him to be left to find his mate. The hunter let him also go. 

The first doe went home and delivered her young. The second doe and the black 
buck had conjugal happiness. After this, the black buck asked the doe to remain at home, 
and offered to go himself to the hunter to be killed. The doe would not permit him to be 
killed alone. So all the three went to the hunter and quarrelled among themselves for 
precedence in death. 

The sins of the hunter, in the meantime, had been expiated by the vigil and the 
repetition of the name of Shiva, and a realization of the evil of killing game for meat dawned 
upon him. He preached a sermon to the deer and let them go. At this moment messengers 
ot Shiva came with a celestial car, and the hunter was bodily translated to Shivaloka. 

The Shivaratra is one of the most important festivals of the Hindus. Fairs are held 
on river beds or seashore, and thousands of people come even from distant places to attend 
them. In some parts of India singing of obscene songs is indulged in at the fairs. 

Ganesh Chaturthi 

The fourth day (hence Chaturthi) of Bhadrapad (August-September) is sacred to 
Ganesha. Clay figures of Ganesha are made, worshipped and then drowned in a river, 
tank or sea. The images are decorated with flowers and taken in procession to the water- 
side with music and dancing. When the procession reaches the water-side, the images are 
placed on dry land, worshipped and then gently drowned. 

“After the image is put into the water a handful of clay or sand is brought in the 
tray or on the stool used for canying it, and ceremoniously thrown into the barn, the grain 
barrels, and particularly into the room in which provisions are stored," so as to ensure good 
crops in the next season. 

It is inauspicious to see the moon on Ganesh Chathurthi. If anybody happens to 
see it. on this day he fears to be slandered. It is said Krishna was falsely accused of the 



PRINCIPAL HINDU HOLIDAYS 


murder of Prasena and the theft of Syamantaka due to his looking at the moon on Ganesh 
Day. This sin can, however, be expiated by getting oneself abused on the following day. 
Hence those who see the moon on Ganesh Night provoke their neighbours in the morning 
and get themselves abused. This is, however, a delicate art and the inexperienced have to 
practise it with caution. 

The cause of the enmity between Ganesha and the moon is said to be this : One day 
while Ganesha was passing Chandraloka (the region of the moon) he happened to tumble 
down, and Chandra laughed at him. Now, the appearance and gait of Ganesha were 
matters of much comic comment among the gods but no god had dared to laugh at him as 
Chandra did. Ganesha, angered at the conduct of the moon, cursed him and declared 
that whoever would look at him should be falsely accused. Thus, the god who was the 
pet of the three worlds became inauspicious and all people avoided him like the plague. 
Chandra, unable to bear the shame of it, hid himself in a lotus flower. The gods missed 
liim, but none of them had the power to cancel the effect of Ganesha’s curse. So they 
went to Ganesha himself. Brahma initiated them in Ganesha-puja and on the gods per- 
forming this ceremony, Ganesha was propitiated and he asked them what they wanted. 
On coming to know the object of their suit, he told them that the offender himself should 
perform the necessary Puja and approach him. Accordingly Brahaspati was sent to 
Chandra and he instructed him in the Puja ; on Chandra performing it, Ganesha appeared 
before him. Chandra begged to be pardoned. The other gods also pleaded for the repent' 
ant sinner. Thus persuaded, Ganesha removed the general effect of the curse but main- 
tained that Chandra's disgrace should be perpetuated and declared that whosoever saw 
the moon on Ganesh Day should suffer the effect of the curse. He also laid down that 
those who intentionally or unintentionally looked at the moon on this day should expiate 
their sins by getting themselves abused on the next day. 

Datta Jayanti 

This is the birthday of Dattatreya (a form of the Trinity) and falls on the fifteenth 
day of Margashirsha (November-December). Its folklore is more interesting than its 
observance. 

The sage Narada felt unhappy because there were no quarrels anywhere. So he 
went to Parvati and, while conversing with her, observed that there was no \voman in the 
three worlds to equal Anasuya, wife of Atri, in piety and virtue. Now Parvati had always 
thought herself the paragon of virtue, and was offended by Narada' s speech. She did 
not, however, say anything but decided to prove the inferiority of Anasuya by demon- 
stration ; so, as soon as Narada had departed she went to Shiva and asked him to tempt 
Anasuya and deprive her of her chastity. 

From Mount Kailas, Narada went to Brahmaloka, raised jealousy in Sarasvati and, 
after that, proceeded to Vaikunta where he succeeded in making Lakshmi also ask her 
husband to tempt Anasuya. 

The three gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva started on their journey to Atri's hermi- 
tage, met at the junction of the three roads, and, ascertaining the object of each other’s 
journey, decided to act jointly. They transformed themselves into mendicant Brahmins, 
went to Atri's hermitage and begged for alms. Anasuya came with a handful of grain, but 
they asked for food. She sent them to bathe in the stream adjoining the hermitage ana 
prepared a meal for them. The mendicants came for the feed, seated themselves and 
asked Anasuya to strip herself naked and then serve them. Anasuya took a bowl of water, 


142 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


washed her husband's feet with it and, collecting the water again, sprinkled it over the 
Brahmins who were now turned into babies. She then stripped herself, offered them 
breast, and put them to sleep in a cradle. The gods were also deprived of their power to 
assume their original forms. Thus trapped, they lived in the hermitage of Anasuya as her 
children. 

Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, troubled over the prolonged absence of their hus- 
bands, set out in search of them. They met at the junction of the three roads, and saw 
Narada standing there playing on his Vina. The ladies asked the sage if he had seen their 
husbands, and were told that they were seen going to the hermitage of Atri. They started 
for the hermitage and, on reaching there, found their husbands in the cradle. Anasuya 
came to them, and the goddesses, much humiliated, begged her to return, their husbands 
to them. She asked each of the ladies to pick out her husband. But all the babies were 
alike in appearance, and Lakshmi picked up Shiva to the merriment of Anasuya and the 
gods. Baffled, the goddesses implored Anasuya to restore their husbands to their original 
forms. But Anasuya said she had some claim on the babies as she had nursed them for 
so long, and the goas agreed to remain with her as her offspring in a combined form with 
three heads and six hands. On getting this assurance she washed the feet of her husband, 
sprinkled the water on the babes and transformed them to their proper forms. The gods, 
in their turn, kept their promise and, by combining a part of each of them, produced a three- 
headed divinity named Dattatreya. The central head represents Vishnu, the right-hand one 
Shiva and the other Brahma. 

Ramanavami 

This festival falls on the ninth day of Chaitra (March-April) and is celebrated as the 
birthday of Rama. During the eight nights preceding it, it is believed to be meritorious to 
listen to a recital of the Ramayana. For this purpose Pundits, well versed in sacred lore, 
are invited to temples where they entertain the audience with Katha (literally, story-telling). 

Janmashtami 

This is the birthday of Krishna and falls in the month of Shravan (July-August). 
It is not celebrated as a very important festival except in places where Krishna-worship 
is very popular. The feast is also called Gokul Ashtami. 

Vasanta Panciiami 

The fifth day of Magh (January-February) is sacred to Sarasvati. She is worshipped 
on this day particularly by scribes, scholars and students. While one school holds the 
view that no writing should be done on this day, and all books, pens, pencils and inkstands 
should be locked up before an image of Sarasvati, another school maintains that it is aus- 
picious to write important documents on this day. 

In addition to these, there are numerous other festivals among the Hindus winch 
have not, however, an all-India importance. Every temple has its tutelary deity and an 
annual festival is held in honour of this deity on a day fixed by local traditions. These 
festivals are the most popular in the localities which the temples serve. 



Chapter xiii 

SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 
Naea and Damayanti* 

N ALA was the prince of Nishadha. He was handsome like Kama and brave like 
Indra, and in horsemanship there was not his equal in the three worlds. 

One day while Nala was walking by the side of a lake in the royal park, he saw some 
swans gambolling in the water, and caught one of them. The frightened bird prayed to 
be released and Nala let it go ; then, out of gratitude, the swan spoke to him of the marvel- 
lous beauty of Damayanti, the princess of Vidarbha. The bird described the lady so 
minutely and eloquently that Nala saw an image of heT before him, mid fell in love with 
her. He requested, the swan to go to Damayanti and convey to her a message of love 
from him. Accordingly, the good bird went to Damayanti, spoke to her of the greatness 
of Nala, and his love for her, and the princess requited Nala’s love. 

The time came for Damayanti's Swayamvara (choice of husband) and king Bhimaka, 
her father, sent invitations to all the kings of the earth, so that she might choose a prince to 
her liking. Nala also received an invitation, and he eagerly proceeded towards Vidarbha, 
himself driving the chariot. 

In the meantime, Narada, after his travels on earth, returned to heaven and gave 
news of the Swayamvara to the gods. He extolled the beauty of Damayanti with all the 
eloquence he was capable of, and the gods themselves fell in love with her. Indra, Varuna, 
Agni and Yama decided to attend the Swayamvara and try their luck ; so, attired in the 
finest robes, they proceeded towards Vidarbha. 

On their way, the gods met Nala. Seeing his noble bearing and skill in horse- 
manship, they asked him who he was and where he was going. Nala said he was the king 
of Nishadha and was going for the Swayamvara of Damayanti. The gods saw how hand- 
some Nala was and how well he spoke, and feared that Damayanti might prefer him to them. 
Moreover, he was a fit messenger for the gods. So they made him promise that he would 
do their bidding, and then asked him to go to Damayanti as a messenger from them, with 
a request to her to choose one of them as her husband. They also gave him a robe by 
wearing which he could make himself invisible to all except Damayanti. Nala was grieved 
at the turn affairs had taken, but he was on oath, and hence went to Damayanti as the 
spokesman of the gods. 

Nala saw Damayanti in her garden. She was even more attractive than he had 
imagined, and Nala thought of the pity of it all. But he subordinated his love to his sense 
of duty and pleaded ably for the gods, enumerating to her the greatness of each, and the 
benefits she could get by choosing one of them. Damayanti saw Nala, and from the 
description the swan had given her, recognized him. She put him on oath, and asked 
him to reveal his identity and say how he managed to get into the garden unseen by the 
guards. Nala was thus forced to say who he was, and tell her the circumstances which had 
led to his extraordinary mission. The princess smiled. "My lord ! " she said, "I loved 
and chose you as my lord on the day the swan described your greatness to me. Pray, go 
and tell the gods that I care not for all their wealth and splendour. I have given my heart 
and soul to the king of Nishadha, and him only shall I wed.” Nala felt happy, but he 
still pleaded for the gods and chid her for preferring a mortal to the celestials. He also 

* The story appears in the Makabharata. 

M3 



144 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OP INDIA 


warned her of the ire of the gods if she displeased them. But neither lure of celestial 
splendour nor fear of divine wrath could move Damayanti. "The gods know all,” she 
said, "pray, go "back and tell them that I cannot wed any one of them." 

Nala now went back, happy and miserable at once; happy because he was loved 
by Damayanti, miserable because of the failure of his mission. The gods were waiting 
for him. He told them how he had failed. They praised him for his devotion to duty, 
for they were, they said, in the garden when Nala was pleading for them. They blessed 
him, wished him the best of luck and allowed him to attend the Swayamvara. 

For the Swayamvara sat assembled in the great hall of the palace all the mighty 
kings of the earth. At the appointed time, Damayanti, attired in beautiful robes, entered 
the assembly like the full-moon in the star-studded sky. Behind her walked her com- 
panions, and before her went the goddess Sarasvati herself, describing to her the name 
and style of each of the kings. The suitors looked expectantly at the fateful garland in 
Damayanti’ s hand. One by one she passed the kings leaving them in the depth of despair. 
At last she came to the king of Nishadha. Sarasvati discreetly stood silent; for she saw 
five kings alike in appearance and attire. Damayanti looked at them, and knew who the 
other four 'Nalas* were ; they were the four gods who had come to wed her. She uttered 
a silent prayer to the gods to reveal their identity, and the gods heard her prayer. They 
sat without touching their seats, and Damayanti put the garland on Nala. 

The four gods praised Damayanti for her constancy, and each of them granted a 
boon to Nala. After the marriage, Nala returned with his bride to Nishadha. 

While the gods were going back to the celestial regions they saw Kali* (the evil spirit 
of Kaliyuga) on his way to Vidarbha to attend the Swayamvara. The gods laughed at him 
and told him that the Swayamvara was over and Damayanti had chosen Nala for her 
husband. Kali reviled the gods for permitting a mortal to win Damayanti while they 
were there, and swore, in sheer spite, that he would bring about the ruin of Nala. He then 
proceeded to Nishadha and waited for an opportunity to possess Nala. But this king was 
strict in his observance of all religious ceremonies, and the persevering Kali had to wait 
years before he could get an opportunity. One day, however, an irregularity in Nalas 
morning ablutions occurred, and Kali possessed him. Soon after, Pushkara, Nala s 
brother, whom Kali had already instigated to plot his brother's ruin, challenged Nala to a 
gambling contest. The king accepted the challenge, and the two engaged themselves m 
gambling. 

Nala began, to lose heavily. He lost villages, towns and provinces. His counsellors 
and Damayanti advised the king to give up the contest, but the possessed king paid no heed 
to their entreaties and gambled all the more eagerly. Seeing this, Damayanti feared the 
worst, and sent her two children to her father’s house. 

Soon the worst happened. Nala lost everything and was asked by Pushkara to leave 
his kingdom. The ruined king wept, and told Damayanti that he was no more worthy of 
her and that she should go to her father’s house. Moreover, he added, he was condemned 
to wander in the forests, and Damayanti, who all along had been brought up in the lap of 
luxury, could not bear the horrors of forest-life. But the loyal lady maintained that her 
place was beside her husband and with him she could bear any hardship. If lie wanted 
her to go to her father, well, she said, they would both go to him. This the pride of Nala 
would not allow him to do. So, the royal couple left their kingdom on a dark night and 
went into the wilderness. 

• llo U not to be confused with I Cali, wife of Shiva. 



SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 


145 

In the jungle, Nala felt hungry, and, seeing some wild birds, spread his clothes for 
a net to catch them ; but the birds were in reality a contrivance of Kali, and they flew 
away with his clothes laughing at the naked king. After this, Nala and Damayanti satisfied 
their hunger with what berries and roots they could find in the woods. 

At night the two lay down under a tree, and the travel-worn lady soon fell asleep. 
Nala could not get sleep, but lay thinking of his fate and that of Damayanti. Suddenly 
an idea struck him. The possessed man, his reason perverted by Kali, thought that if he 
were to desert Damayanti she would find her way to her father's kingdom and be happy 1 
No sooner had he conceived the idea than he got up, gently tore half the clothes of Dama- 
yanti, wore the same and ran away from her I 

In the morning when Damayanti woke up, she saw not Nala. She could never 
imagine that he was capable of deserting her in the thick of the forest, and at first thought 
that he was hiding himself in play somewhere. She called his name aloud. But no one 
answered her. By and by the horrible truth dawned upon her. Nala had deserted her I 
She wept and went about the forest like a mad woman, calling out the name of her lord. 

By nightfall she came upon a caravan on its way to a neighbouring city. She was 
hospitably received by the traders, and they promised to take her to the city. But at night 
a herd of wild elephants attacked the caravan and caused much loss of life and property. 
The merchants put down their misfortune to the presence of Damayanti among them ana, 
suspecting her to be a witch, drove her away from the camp. Thus Damayanti was again 
left alone in the wilderness. After many more adventures in the forest with wild beasts 
and wilder men, she at last came to the city of Chedi, her scanty clothes all torn, her body 
bruised, her hair dishevelled, looking more or less, like a mad beggar woman. Children 
followed her through the streets and pelted her with stones. She happened to pass by the 
side of the palace, and the queen, seeing her from the balcony of her apartment took pity 
on the harassed woman and sent a messenger to conduct her to her presence. Accordingly 
Damayanti was taken to the queen. The royal lady asked her who she was, and Damayanti 
told her that she was a merchant's daughter, that their caravan, while passing through the 
forest, was attacked by wild elephants, that all her people were killed, and that she alone 
escaped with her life. The queen seeing her good manners and noble bearing, and hearing 
her sweet speech, asked her to remain in the palace as a companion to her daughter. Dama- 
yanti agreed and stayed at the Court of Chedi. 

As soon as news oi the exile oi Naia and Damayanti reached Bhimaha, this long 
sent messengers throughout all the kingdoms of the earth to look for them. One of these 
messengers came to the court of Chedi, saw Damayanti and told the queen who she was. 
The delighted queen, who was a relative of Bhimaka, chid Damayanti for hiding the truth 
from her, and sent her with a royal escort to Vidarbha. 

Now for Nala. After deserting Damayanti, he wandered in the forest and saw a 
serpent surrounded by a forest fire. The reptile prayed to Nala to rescue it, and the chi- 
valrous king, at great personal danger to himself, saved it from the flames. But as soon 
as it was out of danger the serpent bit Nala, and he became transformed into a swarthy 
ugly fellow. On Nala's asking the serpent what kind of reward this was, the serpent told 
him that it was a blessing in disguise. It would help him to remain unrecognized in his 
exile, it said. The serpent also taught him an incantation, by repeating which, he could 
assume his original form at will. 

Thus changed in person, Nala wandered over many lands till he reached Ayodhya 
where he took up a situation as charioteer to king Kitupama, and gave his name as Bahuka. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


I46 

He had lived there for some time when a messenger sent by Damayanti to look for Nala 
arrived at the court. Bahuka si lowed interest in the man and fell into conversation with 
him. Now, the messenger had instructions from Damayanti to ask anyone suspected of 
being Naia the following question : “Where art thou fled, 0 gambler, leaving me alone 
in the forest with half my clothes ?” Seeing Bahuka’s interest in Damayanti, the messenger 
put him the question. Bahuka, visibly agitated, made answer : “The gambler is un- 
worthy of you, noble lady, who ardently seeks the wretch who so shamefully deserted you. 
Still he asks for your forgiveness, for he was beside himself when he deserted you," 

The messenger returned to Vidarbha and narrated to Damayanti the reply Bahuka 
had given him. But the description he gave her of the person was that of one who, in no 
way, could be Nala. At any rate she decided to see him for herself, and sent a trusted 
Brahmin with a message to Ritupama informing him that Nala’s whereabouts were un- 
known and inviting him to a second Swayamvara of Damayanti. The message was con- 
trived to reach Ayodhya on the day previous to the supposed wedding. Damayanti knew 
that only Nala could drive the chariot from Ayodhya to Vidarbha in one day. 

Ritupama was one of those lovers of Damayanti who had attended her first Swayam- 
vara but had to come away disappointed. He was still in love with the lady and was eager 
to attend her second Swayamvara. But time was short, and he asked his charioteer if he 
could reach Vidarbha next day. Bahuka said he could. The charioteer selected the 
fleetest horses from the stable and yoked them to the lightest chariot ; and when he took 
the reins and goaded the horses, the carriage sped with the swiftness of wind. So great 
indeed was the speed of the chariot that when Ritupama accidentally dropped his scarf and 
would have stayed to pick it up, Bahuka said that it lay five miles behind, and drove faster ! 
Marvelling at the horsemanship of Bahuka, Ritupama decided to spring a surprise on Ins 
charioteer and said, while passing a tree, that it had so many brandies, so many leaves and 
so many flowers. The amazed charioteer pulled up reins, got down from the chariot ana 
counted the branches, leaves, and flowers of the tree, and found them correct. Bahuka 
begged Ritupama to teach him this science of numbers, and Ritupama demanded that he 
should be taught the art of horsemanship in return. Bahuka agreed and they taught the 
sciences to each other ; and as soon as Nala learnt the science of numbers, by its power, 
Kali was ejected out of his person and he came to himself. He, however, retained the ugly 
form the serpent had transformed him into. 

Damayanti was anxiously waiting for the arrival of Ritupama, and when she saw, 
from the terrace of the palace, the chariot coming whirling through the sky, as it were, 
she felt almost certain that the charioteer was Nala and no one else. But when she saw 
him she felt much depressed, because lie looked so very unlike Nala. She, however, sent 
a Brahmin to enquire of him if he knew aught of Nala and observe if he showed any emotion. 
The Brahmin went to Bahuka and asked him if he had heard anything about Nala. Bahuka 
answered with much emotion : “Only Nala’s self of Nala knows, and Nala will, of himself, 
no sign betray." Damayanti ordered that no food should be served to him. He was to be 
given only uncooked rice and vegetables, neither fire nor water to cook them, and spies 
were ordered to watch what he did with the rice and vegetables. Nala produced fire and 
water by the power of the boons Agni and Varuna had once given him and cooked his food. 
The spies saw the miracle and reported it to Damayanti. She asked them to bring a morsel 
of the food Bahuka cooked. Wien this was brought she tasted it and was convinced that 
it was of Nala's cooking. And lastly Damayanti sent her children to the charioteer who 
embraced them and wept. Now she went to him herself and Nala, unable to contain 
himself, proclaimed his identity and embraced her. “But how could you, Damayanti, 
said he, “forgetting your Nala seek another husband ?” 





\ CMt Oi 11)01 S TAKLN IN 



JAGANNATH BEING PUBLICLY V 
(From a painting by Solvyns) 



SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 


147 

She swore that the second swayamvara was a ruse, asked him if he saw there any 
preparations for it, and called upon the gods to declare that, throughout the prolonged 
absence of her lord, she had been faithful to him. The gods heard her prayer and a voice 
spoke from the void : "Nala I Damayanti has always been true to you." A shower of 
flowers fell from the sky and celestial music was heard. 

Ritupama, who had been at first much intrigued to find there were no preparations 
for the Swayamvara, now came to know who his charioteer was. He blessed Nala and 
Damayanti and took his leave. 

Nala now challenged his brother to a gambling contest, and, by the power of the 
science of numbers he had learnt, easily defeated Pushkara and won the kingdom from 
him. He generously forgave his wicked brother and allowed him to remain in the kingdom 
in opulence. And Nala reigned in Nishadha for many years. 

Those who read the story of Nala or listen to it will be free from all the evil effects of 
Kaliyuga. 

Shakuntala 

Once upon a time there lived a king named Dushyanta. He went on a hunting 
expedition and, chasing a fawn, strayed away from the main party and came to a forest 
where some Rishis had their hermitage. He entered a flower-garden by a river-bank and, 
in it, beheld a damsel beautiful as a nymph. She was in the full bloom of her youth, and 
scantily clad as a hermit’s daugher. The contours of her youthful body were marvellous 
to behold and the king was wounded by the shafts of Kama ; but he feared to acknowledge 
even to himself his desire for the lovely maiden, as he took her for the daughter of a 
Brahmin hermit, marriage between a Kshatriya and a Brahmin girl being forbidden. But 
on speaking to her and her companion who was beside her, Dushyanta came to know that 
the maiden was the daughter of king Viswamitra.* Emboldened by this knowledge 
Dushyanta asked for Shakuntala’s hand and the maiden, already burning with love of him, 
eagerly consented to become his wife. Kanva, Shakuntala's foster father, was not in the 
hermitage at that time, and Shakuntala and Dushyanta got married according to the 
Gandharva rite.f Dushyanta spent some time in sport with his bride and, on his departure 
to his kingdom promised her that he would come back shortly and conduct her to his 
court. 

Months passed and Dushyanta did not return. Shakuntala showed signs of 
pregnancy and it became difficult for her to conceal her condition any longer. So her 
companion spoke to Kanva, with becoming modesty, of what had taken place, and the 
sage decided that Shakuntala should now be with her husband, and sent her to Dushyanta 
with two trusted disciples and a lady companion. 

The party reached the court of Dushyanta, and the king received them in an open 
assembly. But when Kanva’s disciples presented Dushyanta with his wife, the king, 

* the sanctified ascetic Yiswamitra, who had for thousands of years been engaged in the most rigid mortification* 

beheld Menaka, the Apsara sent by Indra to debauch him, ‘bathing, of surpassing form, unparalleled in beauty, in appearance 
resembling Sri, her clothes wetted by the stream, exhibiting her fascinating symmetry of frame ; he, subdued by the arrows Cl 
K&nd&rpa, approached her ; aod five times five years, spent in dalliance with this seducing female, passed away like a moment. 
'What l f exclaimed at length the reflecting sage, ‘my wisdom, my austerities, my firm resolution, all destroyed at once by a wo maul 
Seduced by the crime in which Indra delights, am I stripped of the advantages arising from all my a us ten tits J Tai Kama) ana. 

Shakuntala was bom of this amour. Menaka. unable to seduce Viswamitra again, left the new-born babe beside him 
and went to the celestial regions. The babe was found by the hermit ICaava who brought her up as his daughter. 

f Because of the free love supposed to exist among Gandharvas and Apsaras, love-marriages are known amoog the Hindus 
ns Gandharva marriages. 



148 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

th r ^kfn 1 Jtw U |?' J? en! , e< ? aU kn ? wled S e , of having over seen Shakuntala. The hermits told 
^ S 5? k n "‘i* ? ”?* lnc apaMe of telling a lie and accused him of betraying an 
the S ,^ k . untaIa a, “ s P oko at length of the sin of betrayal and the greatntls of 

$ ^“ f bt™ s ih dd,°d u Xm r,in; s A id the kins ' " but - 

and the^ h fa h~b"°eT-- heaV ° n 1 "° Wng ' ShakuntaIa is thy la " M 

divine nW DU * S n y ?^ a T b , raCcd •>£ wife, and told her that he had been waiting for this 
divine proof so that the whole assembly might be convinced of the legality of their marriage. 

takes itename ° f Dushyanta and sh akuntala was Bharata from whom India (Bharatam) 

We;,eJ„ ha i ab0 T V „ e i S a summary of the original story of Shankuntala, narrated in 
some ehorpeters a a well known play of Kalidasa, the poet, for dramatic effect, introduces 
KalitrS s , mC ‘ de ? t , S ° u£s!de the theme ° f the original story. According 
demrts d ?h?w y ^ nta ’. aa a f? ke i? ° £ the nlarr lage, gives his signet ring to Shakuntala and 
Com^and^ehsft t S h tS d n tbe ^rmitage dreaming of her lover when the sage Durvasa 
Srives DushvpoH ot v d00r ' She A°v es not hear him ' and h o imprecates a curse which 
the*save temSf fh ' h me !T,° ry “f Shakuntala. The door is subsequently opened, and 
would resto^ P hk lost '" th 5 b ! essm ® and declares that the sight of the signet ring 

nroceedfto the cnort 7h ra °[ y Dash y anta - But. while Shakuntala with her companions 
witho^ S notlrinuthMftsc he^ nl! , ct. a l? , . ? e °“ V? a lake 10 "' ash h e r hands and loses the ring 
denies ever hnvfmr °, S il Shakuntala reaching the court, Dushyanta, naturally enough, 
at the court hpnd th h0 d'- H l r con 'P ani °ns, determined not to take her back, leave her 
descends^ from heave^ g d driVeS - her ., aul: -„ Outsido the P ala “- Menaka, Shakuntala's mother, 
birth to her Sm d her ° S t0 the celestial re gi“ ns where she lives and S™ 5 


"” g _i s J aw ? Uo ": ed hy a fish and the fish caught by a fisherman. He sees 
the king. On seeing the ring his lost memory is restored 
1 vain search for his wifi* thmnfrhn.tt tho mor+h \vTipti 


S e Du n shiant S a b Sd t0 lne . Kul g- Un seeing the ring his lost memory is 

the kinnriius 'lives i b o” tdUtes a vam search for !l 's wife tlioughout the earth. When 
his aSance in a bittleS in messenger with a celestial car comes from Indra, seeking 
and returns to earth with th A ? uras : J king proceeds to heaven, defeats the Asuras 
the house ^^here stoWpf b r bleSSm | the S ods -. 0n his "’ay down he happens to pass 

ultimately finds Shakuntala o^ 3 t^ ere 4 ees ^ is son * conversation with him, 

ultimately finds Shakuntala, and, with his wife and child, returns to his kingdom 

VlKRAMADITYA 

centur^A D ma ^u th!^ h a + pHSwho is said to have ruled in Ujjain in the 4th 
B.C. (Vikram era starts ^, nam ? indicates that he lived in the first century 

Tales of VikramadUvn whirl. ^ B-C.). There is a collection of popular stories known as 
iod^^^o&n^ , i? pea ^ ° £ u s adventurcs - It is said that he propitiated the 
vSSs On rfefSrfiw ,n? 0 ? from h^.hy which he was aUowed to reign for a hundred 
could* eivehim ate^ef 1 L r boo ?,, to minister Bhatti ' the latter observed that he 

and Lm E of another hundred years' life. Vikramaditya felt surprised 

iSli's boon^ ™ fa?7wLS nld bC . d ™ e ; “P™ which the minister told him that since 
vear and ms intn vnlnnHn, „ d -, y T S tukramaditya could reign for six months in a 

and thus dnnhlp his snan r/ 16 remaining six, appointing his minister as regent, 

and thus double his span of life. The long acted upon the advice of his minister and Uved 



SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 


149 

six months every year in self-imposed exile. Most of the Vikramaditya Tales narrate 
his adventures during the period of his exile. 

Of the legends of Vikramaditya, the most interesting are the Tales of a Vetala 
(possessed corpse). These tales (twenty-five in number) are in the form of riddles told 
by Shiva in a temple, for the entertainment of Parvati. The Brahmin attendant of the 
temple overheard the stories, and Shiva, who caught him eavesdropping, cursed him to 
become a Vetala and hang head downwards on the branch of a Murucca tree. The Brahmin 
prayed for mercy, and Shiva declared that he would be released from the effect of the curse 
by Vikramaditya to whom the Vetala was recommended to narrate the stories, and ask 
for a solution of the riddles. 

Vikramaditya, in the course of his wanderings in the forest, sees the Vetala and, at 
the request of a sage, undertakes to transfer the repugnant being to another forest. The 
Vetala agrees to migrate but imposes a condition on the king that he carries him and remains 
silent during the journey. Vikramaditya now takes the Vetala on his shoulders and 
proceeds towards the outskirts of the forest when the Vetala narrates a story, asks the king 
to solve the riddle it contains, and pronounces a curse if he would not. Thus fallen between 
two stools, the king breaks silence to solve the riddle and the Vetala goes back to 
the Murucca tree. Vikramaditya makes twenty-five attempts to transfer the Vetala at the 
end of which all the riddles are solved and the Vetala becomes once again the 
Brahmin he was. 

The following is one of the stories told by the Vetala : 

In the district called Brahmasthala, on the bank of the Jumna, there lived a 
Brahmin named Agniswamin. He had a daughter named Mandaravati who, in loveliness, 
excelled the Apsaras. When the maiden came of age to be married, there arrived from 
Kanyakubja, three young accomplished Brahmins seeking her hand. Each one of these 
suitors demanded the maiden for himself and threatened to commit suicide if she was 
given to another. So her father, afraid to cause the death of any, declared that Mandaravati 
could not be given in marriage to any of them. But the young Brahmins remained in the 
house day and night, their eyes feasting on the beauty of Mandaravati’s countenance. 

Then the maiden suddenly fell ill and died. The three lovers, distracted with grief, 
carried the dead body of Mandaravati to the cremation ground and burnt it. After the 
cremation, one of the Brahmins dwelt in the burial ground, sleeping on the ashes 
of. Mandaravati and living on the alms he could get by begging. The second took her 
bones to the Ganges and lived on the banks of the river meditating on Mandaravati. The 
third became a wandering mendicant. 

The Wanderer, in the course of his travels, reached a village named Vajraloka where 
he was hospitably received in the house of a Brahmin. This Brahmin was very learned 
and pious, and was in possession of a book which contained an incantation for bringing 
the dead back to life. The Wanderer came to know of this mid, at night, while his host 
was sleeping, he stole the book and, with the intention of bringing Mandaravati back to 
life, proceeded towards Brahmasthala. Travelling day and night, he at last reached the 
cremation ground and saw the first lover sleeping on the ashes of liis beloved. The second 
lover who had gone to the Ganges also returned to the spot, and thus the three lovers again 
met. Collecting the ashes of Mandaravati the lover who had the Book of Life with him 
opened the book, recited the incantation and Mandaravati t came .back to life. But the 
lovers started quarrelling among themselves. “She is mine,’ said the one u'ho recited the 
charm, “because I brought her back to life by the power of the charm J repeated.” “She 



i5o 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


'"for : b “T eI P ™ h “ •*»" "She 

waters of the Ganges restored her to life." y pJsnma S e 311(5 the sanctity of the 

Whose'^ e W 'o^ t 1 fc&; be y ? ‘'il ^ «■* dispute, 

fly to pieces;” ^ u ^ inow do n ot say it, your head shall 

though he endured hardships, musfbe consIdered n her 1 fath eSt °h ed ^ 1° 1116 by 3 charm ' 
office for her ; and he win? carried her bones hf the r th 1 because he performed that 
he who, out of love, lay on her ash G ?"S“. 13 considered her son; but 
her and practising asceticism is tn ,* if° * emauied m the cemetery embracing 
deep affection. S ’ * b ^ ed her husband ' for b e acted like one in his 

The king having thus broken silence, the Vetala went back to the Mnnicca tree. 

The Legend of Jagannath 

an impmtant’ ' Sre of pteimfif ^ °!, th ? ™ iv f rSe) at Puri is ' as is weU ka0 '™ 
belief accepts him as, an appearance of Vkhiln h™ declares Jagannath to be, and common 
of his essence. Thereis P C„ r ° Vl ^ nu J™self, and not the incarnation of a portion 
Jagannath had any coniecSoTwfth * bMar 

of some unknown tribe whose “ Possible that he was the local divinity 

when admitted ffito the pantheon wa? T Hind “ sm 5 3 " d the new god, 

what is more probable as Puri was as ^ n H t,ler mamf estation ot Vishnu ; or 

placed under a ban and its followers dSiS'ii, 0 Buddhism, when that system was 
and Jagannath, nominallv a Hied,, tbe temple was utilized for Hinduism, 

image being nothing else than a HiseiP^d' f VaS re ?nf Buddhistic, the strange, unfinished 
the Buddhist faith. Possibl'v in ordev'toV 0 ? 1 " the s >™ boIs oI the central doctrine of 
was a form of Vishnu. There are »LnU free fron > persecution, it was taught that this 
which he is worshipped' and for the 5e S ends Pressing to account for the form in 

There is a pecStyta thephrlsenC of Pllri . the chief place of his worship, 

speak of going te ce Jagamatt 5 C , mpI ?? ed , b V the people who visit his slnine ; they 
it is the sight of the ima¥e "n the re™ e ' vorsl “P. h ! m . 35 “ the case with other gods ; and 
car that is so eagerly desired as a mpiL K° r a J‘. 1 V s be “U> bathed, or drawn in its ponderous 
tony desired as a means by which sin in the worshipper is destroyed.”* 

Itisfabledtliatareliconirishna^ifoimdb^ £? be tlie work of Viswakarma himself. 

of placing it in an imago of Vishnu praved'Tfv^ 8 1 J 3rned rndradhumna, who, desirous 
architect of the gods consented tn th4*K.,? ° to ^“wakarma to make the image. "The 
if anyone looked at him or in anv wav aS 5 , in explaining to the king that 

immediately desist, and leave the miaue^in ™ h,Ie he was at work, he would 

observe this condition and Viswakarma ^ tatc ‘ The promised to 

grand temple in the blue mountains of Oriss? an^tF 1S ' V ,° rk ‘ In one ni S ht be raised a 
fifteen days the king managed, \vithdifficuut tn^«tJ h * e \ be?an to - make the iniagc * For 
tried to see the god at work Thf» mimr a ■¥’ restram bls impatience, but then foolishly 
image was left S. a most' Jy S «“ed, /he had threatened, and the 

grieved as he saw the result of his “Jrio“tl w£,t I ^ 'S et V The kin & “ceedingly 
with the promise that he would render the i^ t 0 -?r? StreSS * t0 *? rahina who comforted Ilun 
• hJ. m, ^ w. j. WiZ. image famous m lts P rese nt form. The king 



PLATE LXXV 








SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 


151 

invited the gods to be present at its inauguration. Several accepted the invitation and 
Brahma himself officiated as priest, and gave eyes and a soul to the god. Thus the fame of 
Jagannath was completely established. The original image of this deity is closely copied 
in other places besides Puri ; and by his side there is generally an image of Krishna’s fa- 
vourite brother, Balarama, and his sister Subhadra." 

Khandehrao 

Khandehrao (popularly known as Khandoba) is a manifestation of Shiva and is the 
tutelary deity of the Maharathas. Tradition has it that Shiva assumed this form to kill 
two demon-brothers named Mani and Mall. 

The seven Rishis, so runs the story, had their hermitages in Manichurna Mountain. 
Mani and Mall, finding the hermitages to be obstacles in their hunting expeditions, destroyed 
them. The sages complained to Shiva, and this deity assumed the form of Bhairava (Khan- 
dehrao), and at the head of an army of seven crore legions of fierce creatures, descended 
on Manichurna mountain and engaged the forces of Mani. After a fierce battle Mani was 
killed when Mall appeared with his armies. Bhairava vanquished Mall also. 

"The Rishis requested Shiva to remain on the mountain in their midst, and he did 
so in the form of a double-Lingam of the Swayambhuva or self-evolved type, that is, not 
shaped by human hands. A large city soon grew on the spot. It was named Prema-puri 

or the town of love Behind the image of Khandehrao is that of his consort 'Mhal- 

sabai' riding and attended by a dog. Khandclirao is supposed to be riding on a yellow 
horse, his flag is yellow, and the demons he killed were also yellow." 

At Jejury there is a famous temple dedicated to Khandehrao. The deity is parti- 
cularly beloved of the Dhangar or shepherd caste from whom he is fabled to have abducted 
a maiden named Banai. 

VlTHAL OR VlTHOBA 

This is the story of a converted sinner who became a portion of Vishnu himself. 

A Brahmin named Pundalik was going on a pilgrimage from the Deccan to Benares 
with his wife and aged parents. He ill-treated his parents and made them walk while his 
wife and himself rode on a mule. When the pilgrims reached the town of Pandharpur they 
halted for a day's rest and took up their abode in the house of a Bralxmin. The host of 
Pundalik was the model of filial piety and affection,' and the guest noticed the kindness of 
his host towards his parents and felt ashamed of himself. Earl)' in the morning, when 
Pundalik got up, he saw three elegant ladies, dressed in white and richly ornamented, doing 
menial duties in the household. His curiosity was roused and he asked them who they 
were. At first they would not disclose their identity, because he was a Chandala, they said. 
On enquiring of them how this could be, they told him that a Brahmin who ill-treated his 
parents was as bad as a Chandala. They then informed him that they were the river- 
goddesses Ganga, Jumna and Sarasvati and had, because of the ideal conduct of the Brahmin 
towards his parents, voluntarily undertaken to perform menial duties in his household. 
They also told him that pilgrimages could bring no remission of sins to a man who ill-treated 
his parents. 

Struck with remorse, Pundalik gave up his pilgrimage, remained in Pandharpur and 
acted, for the rest of his life, in the most exemplary manner towards his parents. Vishnu 
observing his devotion inspired Pundalik with a portion of his own divinity and the deified 
saint was renamed Vithal. 



152 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OP INDIA 


There is a splendid temple in Pandharpur dedicated to Vithal (popularly called 
Vithoba), and it is an important centre of pilgrimage among the Maharathas. 

The Mythical Origin of the Ganges 

Ganga is a goddess worshipped, by the Hindus as the personification of the sacred 
river Ganga (Ganges), a dip in whose waters is believed to wash away sins. In the Vidas, 
Ganga does not occupy an important place. In the Vedic times the Aryans had not pene- 
trated into the land watered by the Ganges but were mostly inhabiting the Punjab, and 
hence Sindhu (the Indus) and Sarasvati were the sacred streams of the Vedic period. In 
the Puraitas, however, no stream is said to be so sacred as Ganga. 

Ganga, the goddess, was the daughter of Himavan and sister of Parvati. Her father 
gave her in marriage to the gods and hence the river Ganga flowed only in the celestial 
regions. Bhagiratha, a scion of the Solar race, by labours comparable to those of Hercules, 
is said to have brought the river to the earth. The following is the story of the descent of 
Ganga. 

Sagara, king of Ayodhya, had no children. He propitiated the sage Bhrigu, who 
granted him a boon by which Kesini, one of his two wives, gave birth to a son and the 
other, Sumati to a gourd. The rind of the gourd burst open and produced sixty thousand 
sons. 

When his children grew up, Sagara felt himself powerful enough to perform the 
Aswamedha sacrifice and dethrone Indra. Accordingly he made preparations for the 
sacrifice and let loose the horse to wander at will. Indra, coming to know of the inten- 
tions of Sagara, assumed the form of an Asura, drove away the horse to the nether regions, 
and let it browse near the place where the mighty sage Kapila was sitting in meditation. 

On the disappearance of the horse, the officiating priest went in a panic to Sagara, 
and predicted ruin for the kingdom on account of the deranged sacrifice. Sagara now 
asked his sixty thousand sons to dig their way to the nether regions and regain the horse. 
The mighty sons of Sagara began to dig the earth, and each one digging a league, burrowed 
sixty thousand leagues into the bowels of the earth. The earth herself complained of the 
deeds of Sagara's sons to Brahma, and Brahma pacified her by saying that the princes were 
courting their own death, and asked her to wait a little longer. When the sons of Sagara 
could not find the horse, even in those deep regions which they searched, they returned to 
their father ; he asked them to go back to their work and not to return to Ayodhya without 
finding the horse. So the princes again started burrowing. They bored their way right 
through the earth and came upon the mighty elephants supporting the earth, but still 
could not find the horse. They looked for the horse in all directions and, at last, saW it 
browsing near the hermitage of the sage Kapila. They thought that the sage had stolen 
the horse and rushed to him with the intention of laying violent hands on him. The meditat- 
ing sage opened his eyes in anger, and the sons of Sagara were reduced to ashes by the 
flames that emanated from his eyes. Not one of them escaped to carry the news to 
Sagara. 

Sagara, apprehending the worst, sent his grandson Ansuman (by his first-bom who 
had, subsequent to the birth of the son, taken to asceticism) in search of his uncles. This 
prince, in his quest, reached the hermitage of Kapila and saw the horse. He saluted 
the sage reverently and asked him if he knew aught of his uncles. The sage, pleased 
with his humility, told him what had happened to the sons of Sagara. He also observed 
that they could be brought back to life if the sacred waters of the celestial Ganga could 



SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS !23 

be made to flow over their ashes. Anstiman thanked the sage and, with his permission 
drove back the horse to Ayodhya and completed the sacrifice. 

Now Sagara began to make plans to bring Ganga down to the nether regions 
where the ashes of his sons lay, but during his thirty thousand years’ reign Sagara could not 
succeed in his attempt.- He died bequeathing the task as a legacy to his grandson. But 
neither Ansuman nor his son Dilipa could' succeed where Sagara had failed, and it was given 
to Bhagiratha, son of Dilipa, to accomplish this work. Bhagiratlia performed austerities 
of a very severe nature and propitiated Brahma who agreed to order Ganga to descend 
to the earth. But he warned Bhagiratha that the earth could not sustain the shock 
of her fall, and asked him to propitiate Shiva and request him to receive the goddess in his 
locks. Bhagiratha accordingly underwent a further course of penances at the end of which 
Shiva was propitiated, and he consented to sustain the shock of Ganga's fall. Brahma then 
commanded Ganga to descend to earth and the goddess, none too pleased v\ith the prospect 
of an earthly course, decided to engulf the whole earth in her fall and carry Sliiva himself 
with her to the nether regions. She came in terrible torrents, roaring and foaming, 
uprooting trees and tearing hillocks, but on her descent to Kailas she found in 
Mahadeva more than a match for her. For he caught her in his locks and the goddess, 
unable to extricate herself from the maze of his hair, wandered aimlessly in his head, her 
spirit broken, her strength dissipated. Bhagiratha had again to perform austerities before 
Shiva would release her. On her issuing out of Slxiva’s head she fell to the earth dividing 
herself into several branches, and gave birth to the sacred streams of India. One branch 
followed Bhagiratha who rode in a car, swift as wind, guiding the goddess to the ashes of 
his ancestors. But in her course Ganga happened to flood the sacrificial ground of Jahnu 
and the puissant sage drank up the whole river. Bhagiratha had now to propitiate the 
sage who, at his request, allowed the river to come out of his ear. After this, the course of 
Ganga was smooth and uneventful. Bhagiratha led her to the sea and thence to the nether 
regions where the ashes of his ancestors lay. On the sacred waters flowing over the ashes, 
the sons of Sagara came to life. 

Because of these labours of Bhagiratha which caused the descent of the goddess, 
Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi (daughter of Bhagiratha). The name of Bhagiratha 
became proverbial for persistence and perseverance, and the achievement of any object 
difficult of attainment is referred to as the result of Bhagiratha-prayatnam (labours of 
Bhagiratha). 

Annapurna Devi (Goddess of Daily Bread) 

This is a widely worshipped manifestation of Parvati and was occasioned by a 
domestic quarrel between Shiva and Parvati. 

Shiva, as a mendicant, supported the family by begging ; but one day, due to 
excessive smoking he could not go on his daily rounds. The previous day provision was 
consumed by the hungry children, the rat of Ganesha and the peacock of Kartikeya. So 
the elder members of the family had to starve. While Shiva was wondering why he was 
fated to starve like this when all other gods lived in opulence, Narada appeared before him. 
On enquiring of the sage if he knew the cause of his misery, Narada told Shiva that it was 
all on account of Parvati. “An auspicious wife/' said the learned sage, "brings good fortune 
to her husband, and an inauspicious one misfortunes. Look at Vishnu 1 He married 
Sri and has ever since been living in plenty." After imparting this information to Shiva 
the sage repaired to the kitchen where he saw the starving Parvati sitting in a mclimcholy 
mood. She asked the sage if he knew why she was condemned to such penury, and Naraua 



*54 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


told her that it was all on account of her husband. “A capable husband," said he, "supports 
his family and keeps them in opulence. Look at Sarasvati 1 She married the creator 
and lives in a heaven the like of which does not exist in the three worlds. It pains me to 
say so, noble lady, but there is no getting away from the fact that the tendencies of your 
husband are essentially destructive, and he cares not for his wife and children." 

Parvati brooded over the words of Narada and decided to desert her husband. So 
the next day while Shiva was out begging, she collected her children and proceeded towards 
her father's house. Narada, however, did not want things to go so far and appeared before 
her. He told her that though Shiva had many faults he had redeeming features as well 
which the other gods envied. He advised her to go to the houses where Shiva used to go 
for begging, in advance of her husband, and collect all the food from them. She did so 
with the result that her husband returned home hungry with his begging bowl empty. 
Parvati now fed him with the food she had collected, and Mahadeva was so pleased with 
her that he embraced her violently and became one with her. 

Parvati feeding her husband is known as Annapurna Devi while the combined form 
in which Shiva became one with his wife is called Ardhanari (half- woman). 

The Story of Harischandra 

Once a discussion arose in the court of Indra as to who, in the three worlds, was the 
most truthful and righteous person. The sage Vasishta maintained that none could excel 
Harischandra, the then Emperor of Aryavarta, in virtue and righteousness. "Harischandra, 
said Vasishta, "is never known to have broken a promise or to have withheld any gift a 
Brahmin had asked for. He rules his kingdom so wisely and justly that there is no sorrow 
or premature death in the land. The rains never fail in the seasons and plenty rules the 
land. No widow mourns the death of her lord and no mother, of her child. The king does 
nothing to gain selfish ends and rules the land for the people and the Brahmins. In the 
three worlds, I assure you, there is not so great a person as Harischandra." 

The sage Viswamitra, ever jealous of the fame of Vasishta, thought otherwise. He 
had a high opinion of himself and considered Vasishta's contention an insult to himself and 
all the celestials. He wondered how Vasishta could exalt a mortal above celestials and 
sages. "What do you know about kings, Vasishta ? " thundered lie, addressing his rival, 
"you have never been a king, and a Brahmin is easily duped by the hypocrisy of rulers. 
I was a king myself, and well acquainted with the ways of kings. Most of them pose as 
saints but are sinners at heart. Hence I ask you, on behalf of the gods and the sages, to 
withdraw your remarks about king Harischandra." 

Vasishta was not prepared to accede to the request of Viswamitra and the argument 
between the sages became violent and hot. At last Viswamitra said : "Harischandra is a 
king and can very well afford to practise the various virtues. He has wealth and fame, 
health, a beautiful woman as his wife and a robust boy as his son. Give me leave to test 
him under adversity, and I will very soon show what sort of a man he is." 

The gods agreed that this was the only way of ending the quarrel, and gave Viswamitra 
permission to test Harischandra under adversity. He was allowed to deprive Harischandra 
of his kingdom, wife and son, and health and happiness. On receiving this permission 
Viswamitra requisitioned the service of the malevolent Sani (planet Saturn), ever ready 
to perform any mission of cruelty. 



PLATE LXXVII 



PLATE LXXVIII 



painting by Solvjns) 


SOME POPULAR SI ORIES AND LEGENDS 


155 


While king Harischandra was, one day, holding Durbar, Viswamitra entered the 
assembly dressed as a poor Brahmin. Seeing the Brahmin, the king immediately rose 
from his throne and paid him respect. But the Brahmin stood aloof with a frown on 
his face and a curse on his trembling lips. Harischandra became apprehensive and asked 
the Brahmin the cause of his displeasure.. “I am probably the only starving person m 
this land of plenty" ; said the Brahmin, miserable but haughty, "and I have come here to 
beg a boon of you". The wily Brahmin made Harischandra promise that he would be 
given anything and everything asked for. After extracting this promise, Viswamitra 
asked for the kingdom of Harischandra. The king, without showing any hesitation or 
displeasure, immediately abdicated in favour of Viswamitra and publicly announced it 
in the assembly.* 


Now, no gift to a Brahmin could be properly ratified without a minor gift known as 
Daksliina. Viswamitra, on receiving the kingdom, promptly demanded Harischandra's 
weight in gold as the ratification of the gift. The king ordered the treasury to be opened 
for getting the necessary gold, when Viswamitra objected as, in giving away the kingdom, 
Harischandra had also given away the treasury of the kingdom. The king saw the force of 
the Brahmin's argument, but did not know how to get the required amount for Dakshina. 
“There is one thing you can do”, said Viswamitra, “you have only your son, wife and 
your own person as your private property ; sell these and pay me my Dakshina. If you 
are unwilling to do this, say so, and I shall give you your kingdom back and go my ways.” 
Harischandra refused to go back on his word. He would rather keep his promise and die 
a slave, than break it and live a king. So he decided to sell his son and wife and himself 
and pay all that he could to ratify the gift. 

Viswamitra would not allow the sale of Harischandra and his family in Iris own 
kingdom. So the king with his wife and son travelled on foot to the free city of Benares 
where he put his wife and son and himself to public auction. Sani had, by now, assumed 
the form of a trader and was waiting in Benares for Harischandra’s arrival. He bought 
queen Taramati and her son Rohidas, as he specialized in the persecution of women and 
children. An accomplice of Viswamitra who had assumed the fonn of a Dorn (keeper of 
cremation grounds) for the purpose, bought Harischandra. Viswamitra collected the 
proceeds of the sale as his Dakshina, and went back to his kingdom. But in a subtle form 
he was ever present near Harischandra to take advantage of any opportunity that might 
lead to the fall of the king. 

In Sani, Taramati found a hard taskmaster. She had to drudge day and night 
and was hardly allowed to have any sleep. The dreadful old man always found fault 
with her, scolded her whenever she came in his way and even abused and beat her. Her 
little son was treated even worse. 


The lot of Harischandra was no better. The Dom was a hard man to please. He 
gave Harischandra certain tasks and created numerous obstacles which prevented his 
performing them properly. For instance, he would ask him to work as a water earner 
but cause holes to be made in the pots used for carrying water. He put Harischandra 
in many other jobs and always found some excuse to kick him.. At last Harischandra 
was appointed the doorkeeper of the cremation ground and his chief duty was to see that 
nobody entered the place to cremate the dead without first paying the presenbed fee. 

Taramati and Rohidas were living a miserable life in the house of the impossible 
Sani, but they could snatch a few moments, when the evil planet was not looking, to indulge 


• In a different version of the story it is rented that Viswamitra made Harisdiandra dream, one night, that he had giver 
away his kingdom to a Brahmin, and Viswamitra came in the morning to claim it. 



156 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


put an end to this!' Tlwy ^IdtheSld wMe he 101 the ^? Ip of Vis ™mitra decided to 

tures, to be bitten by a poisonous Lake ' Lhi 3 “ his master ’ s pas - 

was brought to Taramati. P The fond mother instantly and the dead body 

But Sani came on the spot and complained hitffri? U ? waiim S an d lamentation, 

death of the child had involved him in a diLwn« £ her A ack °J ?ense of proportion. The 
good the loss by working harder the fool;*? 1 * l0SS ' he said ' and mstead of trying to make 
over the dead child as if by ^ doinu ™? casting all her time in weeping 
to drive home the point by a handv cudgel T ’m- 11 ™ ^ ack to li pe - He threatened 

and implored him to granthcr a few J ? e was holding, when Taramati fell at hisieet 
cremation ground and Cm [t accLdtaAo fh™ *° take her dead child ‘° 

refuse this request ; besidChe dTnotCa^ the d’eCT' 'T 1 . rites - ? v ? n ^ could not 
long.^ But when Taramati reminded him thnt p d o b d . y t0 . re “ a “ ln 1113 premises for 
Bom s fee, Sani told her that it was her ske iad not a P 1G ] n the world to pay the 
help her carry the corpse to the burning ground CnC C N , or ,' vas there any™ 8 to 

Chandra had to be carried to the cremafifn grouC by C o™ mother C “ ° f ^ 


— o — — vjj ina owji uiocner i 

her son’s body to the crernation CTomS°in nnu 5^ ey ? S oi tears * q ueen Taramati carried 
she was stopped by the watchman for , At the £ ate of the burning ground 

Taramati her husband. ^eWell H^andra recognized his wife ; so did 

all that had happened to he/and of the an ? s and the queen related to him 

with her on hearing her sad storv He -xwft thei [ beloved son - Harischandra wept 
wretched job. * story. He also told her of his misfortunes and of his present 


wife, as he was duty bount^^Nefther ?er eilf 6 P r d ’ ailc * Harischandra demanded it of his 
vvmild permit the king to do an oWuslv n ° r for his wife and son 

‘it is not right for me to let you ^er the ^ 8 f t - hmg * D ™ling", said he to Taramati, 

levymg the fee due to my master I ta0n mth the dead child without 

body of my son decay under my very nosethan^rfnp 7 k'J? ° f s £ orrow “d the dcad 

Taramati became desperate. In her mother's r ° b , the D . om of his legitimate fee. 

the force of Harischandra's argument Tn a affe ^ tlon f° r a lost child she failed to recognize 
she pushed aside the — _ - > \ . , mad moment, with the strength of a tigress 

tne cremation rmrmH j 


she pushed aside the watchmai^rushed to the erf ^? ment ' wth the strength of a tigress 
son placed it on a pile and set fire to it h? ! 310 ," ground with the dead body of her 
lessly from the gate. At that moment the n anscl ? andra watched the burning pyre help- 
the spot, and demanded of Harischandra + °rn, instructed by Viswamitra, appeared on 
burning the dead body; Harischandra explained* tnV'* 8 s ,V p P osed to have collected for 
Dorn pretended not to believe him. He reviled^ 0 ^ tIiat Iiad happened but the 
him for neglecting his duty. He then proceeded * a ^ c V mdr . a and laid violent hands on 
Vrtout the fire, made Taramati pick ud the rhn k C j 5urnin g Pyre, scattered it about, 
of the cremation ground. ^ chaired body of Rohidas and drove her out 


report in the city that a witch had been founcTnS* 1 *?' The p . ltdess Viswamitra spread a 
alive, and had been caught in the act bv the ™ cn ; ma tion ground burning her son 

ground and saw Taramati with the charred t. ^ eop e now rushed to the cremation 

her for a witch. Besides, the ordeal in the ber son * and fc hey very naturally took 

mad and she had the wild look of a witch Sh^^ tl ° n -^ r 2 l i nd ^ ad driven the poor woman 
to the magistrate of the city. ’ uas seized by the minions of law and taken 


At that moment -Viswamitra annexed tt . , 

PP before Harischandra and confided to him 



SOME POPULAR STORIES AND LEGENDS 


157 

that he would not only give Harischandra his kingdom back but would also restore Tara- 
mati to freedom if he, Harischandra, would only tell him that in giving away his kingdom 
to Viswamitra he had acted foolishly, and would now demand it back by word of mouth. 
But Harischandra would not go back on his given word and was willing to let things take 
their own course regardless of consequences. 

Taramati could not defend herself, and on the false evidence given by the Dom, she 
was declared guilty by the magistrate and sentenced to death. The death sentence, in those 
days, was carried out by the owner of the cremation ground, and the Dom told off Haris- 
chandra to do the executioner’s work. 

The queen was brought to the cremation ground for being beheaded. Her hands 
were tied behind her back, and a howling crowd stood by to watch the execution. Haris- 
chandra looked with pity on Taramati’s alabaster neck on which, in happier days, he had 
lavished all Ills love ; and now it had to be cut into two by a sword wielded by his own hand. 
He knew Taramati was guiltless. But as a hangman his duty was not to probe into the 
conscience of the doomed but to do the job. He could not now shirk his duty. No, not 
Harischandra. He would strike the fatal blow. 

The gods looked on from above. The air resounded with the curses of celestials 
on Viswamitra. Harischandra lifted his sword for the mortal blow. But lo ! the lifted 
hand stood paralysed. There was heard a voice from heaven proclaiming the innocence of 
Taramati and the greatness of Harischandra. The three great gods manifested themselves 
on the spot and declared Viswamitra beaten. He was asked to give back his kingdom to 
Harischandra. Brahma gave back life to the body of Rohidas, and the happy boy stood 
up between his parents, more handsome then ever. The gods showered celestial flowers 
from above on Harischandra and Iris family. There was rejoicing in the three worlds, and 
Viswamitra and his evil accomplices slunk away in shame. 



PLATE LXXIX 





PART II 

BUDDHISM AND JAINISM 



PLATE LXXX 



TANJORE 




PART II 


BUDDHISM AND JAINISM 



CHAPTER XIV 


THE BUDDHA 


U NLIKE most of the subjects dealt with in the preceding chapters, the Buddha (Buddha 
is an appellation meaning the 'enlightened’) is more or less a historical figure. It 
is true that popular imagination had made him as mythical a figure as any that can 
be found in Hinduism ; yet it is possible to trace a nucleus of definite historical value from 
which the myths and legends concerning the Buddha have developed. 


The Historical Element in Buddha Myths 


Reliable accounts of his life indicate that the Buddha lived in the sixth century 
B.C. East India was at that time divided into a number of independent principalities, 
some of which were monarchies and others oligarchies in which the elective principle was 
followed in choosing a ruler. The Sakyas belonged to the latter, and Suddhodana was 
their ruler. Siddhartha, the Buddha, was bom of Suddhodana by his first wife Mahamaya, 
also called Maya or Mayadevi. The surname of Siddhartha was Gautama. 

From his very boyhood the prince showed a meditative turn of mind. He studied 
the scriptures with care, but did not take much interest in the military exercises beloved of 
his caste. Much o! his time was spent in contemplation and lonely wanderings. What 
puzzled the young man was the existence of poverty, sickness, senility and death. "Is there 
no remedy for these ? " was the burden of his thoughts. Another thing that oppressed 
his sensitive mind was the arrogance of the priestly caste. His intuition of human equality 
revolted at the exclusive pretensions of the sacredotal caste who "placed themsclve even 
above the gods in the heavens, who were said to live by their sufferance." Under their 
intellectual tyranny the religious life of the community became stagnant. Among the 
Brahmins themselves there was, to be sure, ample scope for discussion, suggestion and even 
heresies. But popular religion had lost all spontaneity and consisted chiefly in feeding the 
priests and paying them cash, and animal sacrifices for gods. The last-named way of 
salvation was particularly repugnant to Siddhartha. His compassionate nature could not 
tolerate the shedding of blood in the name of religion. He had no use for gods who thirsted 
for blood. 


Suddhodana watched his contemplative son with apprehension. He wanted the 
prince to be a soldier and statesman and not a recluse. So he thought marriage would tie 
him to the realities of life, and accordingly made arrangements for his mamage with Yaso- 
dhara, daughter of Dandapani. But Dandapani was a soldier and would not give Ins 
daugher in marriage to a weakling and demanded that Siddhartha should prove his profi- 
ciency in arms. Hence a tournament was held in which Siddhartha acquitted himself nell, 
and he married Yasodhara. 


But marriage did not bring happiness to Siddhartha. In sexual pleasure, he found, 
on the contrary, a further incentive to renunciation. He pitied mankind for pursuing 
phantom joys, mistaking them for realities. The desire to find a solution to human 
suffering became an obsession with Siddhartha, and he thought of it day and night. He 
despised the pleasures of the court and envied the life of the ascetic. So detenumed was 
he on renunciation that when the news of the birth of a son was brought to him he saidto 
himself : "Alas 1 one more fetter to be broken." At last he felt he could bear a 'voriuy 
life no longer, and against all the persuasions and entreaties of his parents, wife and relati cs, 
Siddhartha forsook the world for the wilderness. 



162 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OP INDIA 


“£ ain Brahmin teachers. 

forest and decided t “seek the S 5™ lf| hc “ '™? tui e- , n ™« he repaired to the 
he underwent privations and practised aus’teritS 0 '^ 5 ^!?' raet 1 hod ? f the Hind u ascetics, 
elevating the spirit, and he gave up asceticism v thlS T 7 red V ced ?j s flesh without 

years of wanderings and contemnlatfrmc hj 5 !!! Jv gu \ ar meals : After some “ore 

of the mystery of life He returned to’tlie' n ■ ' Lst ' , Lt hat he had discovered a solution 
humanity. He converted manvTohlem C,t - les and S reached a way of salvation for all 
a good many rhsciplL " y noblemen - P r ‘““ “i learned Brahmins, and collected 

It stands ^ttoSMSfc " 0t “entaUy different from Hinduism, 

doctrine of “ Christianity to Judaism. The central 

Buddhism is traceable to the Uiamshads * •S? d ! llS 'J\S? d Buddhism. The philosophy of 
While the Buddhistic concentinn of c„i .^heword Nirvana is borrowed from Hinduism, 
positive, both admit the loss P of individmahT-if-.^' 1 ‘° be ™ d that ° f Hinduism 

difference between annihilation as a necessary condition for liberation and the 

though easy to put in writing a, vvit ^ t ^ e infinite is difficult to comprehend 

to be sure, enough in“h^Htadn th , e athi ? aI precepts of Buddhism, there was, 

to find sound rules of conduct Eve^the°nilf * he time 1° enable a seeker after iteration 
an emphasis on certain Hindu trends^of^ho^ht"' S ° chaiactenstic of Buddhism, is but 

to Hindu social cmceprions^lfad^^^ rav ® It , gainst Hinduism as a challenge 

the sanctions of caste (not difficult ! J .? ro P°V nd ed his doctrines without challenging 
Brahmins would have accented w<= ?! a behever “ ‘he doctrine of metempsychosis), the 
declaring that a Bntata Td a , or ‘ hodox fo ™ ° l thoa S ht - But in 

Buddha shook the very foundations j bad e 3 ua c i iances of attaining Nirvana, the 

ever. For a time it looked as though rSSJI S °5! e !i 7 ' and anta gonized the Brahmins for 
resistance of Hinduism and establishing in T overcomin ff the age-old 

Asoka (third century B. C.) a mince India. Under the leadership of 

became a convert to the new faith RuAAh*’ after f n , un ? ker of brilliant military conquests, 

gradually the insistence onto? °L^ ^ry ' mlndi * ? ut 

Mamed life came to be looked iLn . of ,P e . rfectlon began to bnng its own retribution, 
under the patronage of princes became S0 . rt L existence, and the monasteries, 

idlers, charlatans and disappointed voluotuarilS^'c: nCh d , attracted a good number of 
vice. Tantric cults found favour with of them degenerated into dens of 

Buddha or Asoka to put things rieht Tn ai i d tbere was not the guiding hand of a 

its opportunity and made a^vigo^rous attemnJ n S f °J tUn< ^ °f Buddhism * Brahminism found 
was almost phenomenal. In a romnarativi*! . revi . va5 - T he success of Brahminism 

out Buddhism from the land of its^birth tlme succee ded in completely driving 

and practices. 01 ltS blrth ' abs °rbmg, no doubt, a good many of its beliefs 



THE BUDDHA 


163 

In building up their pantheon, the Buddhists appear to have freely copied from 
Hinduism. Or it may be, Puranic Hinduism borrowed much from Buddhism. Anyway, 
the most interesting and characteristically Buddhistic myths are those connected with the 
life of Gautama. 


The Legendary Buddha : Nativity 


In the forty-fifth year of her age, Mahamaya, the first wife of Suddhodana, king of 
Kapilavastu, had a strange dream. While she Jay sound asleep, after the festivities of 
Asari Pumima,* the queen dreamt that she saw a spotless white elephant with a white 
lotus in his trunk entering her womb. 

In the morning, Mahamaya narrated her dream to Suddhodana. The king invited 
sixty-four learned Brahmins to a feast, entertained them and requested them to interpret 
the queen’s dream. The wise men pondered over the meaning of the strange dream, and 
unanimously opined that the dream indicated the queen's conception, and predicted that 
she would give birth to a male child. On hearing this, Suddhodana rejoiced, for he had 
no son and was daily praying for one. 


As it was predicted so it happened. The queen showed signs of pregnancy and the 
court physicians were ordered to attend her daily. The gods, too, guarded Mahamaya, 
and the precious embryo that was to be the Buddha. As the pregnancy of Mahamaya 
advanced, her body became transparent and the child could distinctly be seen in her u 0111b 
"like an image in a crystal casket". 


While the last month of her pregnancy was drawing to a close, Mahamaya desired 
to visit her father's house in Dcvadaha. So Suddhodana ordered the road from Kapila- 
vastu to Devadaha to be made even and decorated. When everything was ready. Maha- 
maya travelled to Devadaha in a golden palanquin. On the way was a grove of Sal trees 
called Lumbini Grove, and the queen, seeing the beautiful trees in full bloom, desired to 
spend some time in the grove, and asked the palanquin-bearers to take her there. In the 
grove, while she was enjoying the fragrance of flowers and the music of birds and bees, 
she felt attracted by the beauty of a flower-laden bough. The bough bent down by itself 
and while Mahamaya stretched forth her hand to hold it, she gave birth to her child with- 
out pain or pollution. "Mahabrahma received the child in a golden net ; from him the 
guardian deities received it on a tiger’s skin and gave it to the care of the nobles who wrapped 
it in folds of the finest and softest cloth. But the Buddha was independent of their aid 
and leapt on the ground and when he touched it, a lotus bloomed. He looked to the four 
points and the four half points, above and below, and saw all deities and men acknow- 
ledge his supremacy. He stepped seven steps northward and a lotus marked each footfall. 
He exclaimed : ‘I am the most exalted in the world ; I am chief in the world ; I am the 
most excellent in the world, hereafter there is to me no other birth.' ' 


News of the birth of a son was brought to Suddhodana and it was announced to the 
people by beat of drum. 

It is said that the Buddha. Ills wife Yasodhara, his charioteer Channa his favourite 
horse Kantaka, his most earnest disciple Ananda and the Bo-tree under which he attained 
Buddha-hood were all bom on the same day. 

On the day the Buddha was bom. a sage who lived in the Himalayas had a vision 
of gods rejoicing on the birth of the child. The sage, leaving his wild home, came to the 


• A BiCcbaiiiUaa (ettavil o i the Silyis. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


164 


palace of Suddhodana. The king welcomed him and enquired of liim what noble deed he 
had done to deserve a visit from so holy a man. "I have come, great king/’ said the sage, 
"to see thy babe." The child was shown to the sage. 


The babe beholding, passing bright. 

More glorious than the race divine, 

And marked with every noble sign. 

The saint was whelmed with deep delight ; 
And crying, 'Lo ! an infant graced 
With every charm of form I greet !' 

He fell before the Buddha's feet. 

With lingers joined, and round him paced. 
Next round the babe his arms he wound 
And ‘One,’ he said, 'of two careers 


Of fame awaits in coming years 

The child in whom these signs are found ; 

If such an one at home abide, 

He shall become a king, whose sway 
Supreme a mighty armed array 
On earth shall 'stablish far and wide. 

If, spuming worldly pomp as vain. 

He choose to lead a tranquil life, 

And wander forth from home and wife, 
He then a Buddha's rank shall gain.' 


The sage, after much lamentation, because of his senility which would not let him 
live long enough to witness the greatness of the child, took leave of the king and departed 
towards his Himalayan home. 

Astrologers who cast the child's horoscope also gave a double interpretation of the 
influence of the planets. "Either the child will become a great emperor or, on beholding 
four signs (representing senility, sickness, death and renunciation), give up the world and 
become a Buddha," they predicted. Suddhodana chose the former career for his son 
and decided to plan his life accordingly. 

On the fifth day after the birth of the child, the naming ceremony was performed. 
"Eighty thousand relatives were present on the occasion and one hundred and eight Brah- 
mins attended to foretell his fate and fix his name. 'This prince/ said they, ‘will, hereafter, 
be a blessing to the world, to himself also will be great prosperity.’ In consequence of 
which he was called Siddhartha. A hundred princesses of perfect form became foster 
mothers to the child.” 

Two days atter the naming ceremony Siddhartha s mother died. The child was 
then nursed by Prajapati, second wife of Suddhodana who was also a sister of Mahamaya. 


Boyhood and Education 

The child grew up into a beautiful boy and was educated by the best teachers in the 
kingdom. He eagerly leamt what his teachers taught him, and indeed knew more than 
they. He did not, however, show much interest in military exercises but loved to wander 
alone in the groves. 

Siddhartha had few companions in his boyhood. Devadatta, a cousin and Naiida 
(better known as Ananda), a half-brother, are mentioned ; of these, the former was a rival 
and the latter a friend. The story of a quarrel between Siddhartha and Devadatta is also 
narrated. One beautiful evening, Siddhartha was walking in the royal park when he saw 
a group of royal swans flying towards the Himalayan regions. The calmness of the evening, 
the gentle breeze, the clear sky and the golden rays of the setting sun filled the prince with a 
sense of tranquillity and happiness, when suddenly one of the flying birds, wounded by an 
arrow, fell in front of him. Siddhartha took the bird, washed and dressed its wounds 
and nursed it. But Devadatta who had shot the arrow came to know of it, went to 
Siddhartha, and claimed the bird. Siddhartha refused to surrender the bird and main- 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


164 


palace of Suddhodana. _ The king welcomed him and enquired of him what noble deed he 
had done to deserve a visit from so holy a man. "I have come, great king," said the sage, 
“to see thy babe." The child was shown to the sage. 


The babe beholding, passing bright, 

More glorious than the race divine, 

And marked with every noble sign, 

The saint was whelmed with deep delight ; 
And crying, ‘Lo ! an infant graced 
With every charm of form I greet 1' 

He fell before the Buddha's feet, 

With fingers joined, and round him paced. 
Next round the babe his arms he wound 
And ‘One/ he said, ‘of two careers 


Of fame awaits in coming years 

The child in whom these signs are found ; 

If such an one at home abide, 

He shall become a king, whose sway 
Supreme a mighty armed array 
On earth shall 'stablish far and wide. 

If, spuming worldly pomp as vain. 

He choose to lead a tranquil life, 

And wander forth from home and wife. 
He then a Buddha's rank shall gain.’ 


The sage, after much lamentation, because of his senility which would not let him 
live long enough to witness the greatness of the child, took leave of the king and departed 
towards his Himalayan home. 

Astrologers who cast the child’s horoscope also gave a double interpretation of the 
influence of the planets. “Either the child will become a great emperor or, on beholding 
four signs (representing senility, sickness, death and renunciation), give up the world and 
become a Buddha,” they predicted. Suddhodana chose the former career for his son 
and decided to plan his life accordingly. 

On the fifth day after the birth of the child, the naming ceremony was performed. 
"Eighty thousand relatives were present on the occasion and one hundred and eight Brah- 
mins attended to foretell his fate and fix his name. ‘This prince,' said they, 'will, hereafter, 
be a blessing to the world, to himself also will be great prosperity.’ In consequence of 
which he was called Siddhartha. A hundred princesses of perfect form became foster 
mothers to the child.” 

Two days after the naming ceremony Siddhartha's mother died. The child was 
then nursed by Prajapati, second wife of Suddhodana who was also a sister of Mahamaya. 

Boyhood and Education 

The child grew up into a beautiful boy and was educated by the best teachers in the 
kingdom. He eagerly learnt what his teachers taught him, and indeed knew more than 
they. He did not, however, show much interest in military exercises but loved to wander 
alone in the groves. 

Siddhartha had few companions in his boyhood. Devadatta, a cousin and Nanda 
(better known as Ananda), a half-brother, are mentioned ; of these, the former was a rival 
and the latter a friend. The story of a quarrel between Siddhartha and Devadatta is also 
narrated. One beautiful evening, Siddhartha was walking in the royal park when he saw 
a group of royal swans flying towards the Himalayan regions. The calmness of the evening, 
the gentle breeze, the clear sky and the golden rays of the setting sun filled the prince with a 
sense of tranquillity and happiness, when suddenly one of the flying birds, wounded by an 
arrow, fell in front of him. Siddhartha took the bird, washed and dressed its wounds 
and nursed it. But Devadatta who had shot the arrow came to know of it, went to 
Siddhartha, and claimed the bird. Siddhartha refused to surrender the bird and main- 



PLATE LXXX1I 



PRESENTATION OF THE CHILD TO THE SAGE 
(Copyright : Archaeological Department of India) 




PLATE LXXX1V 



DIPANKARA J VTAK\ (SUMEDHA FALLING AT THE 
FLET OF DIPANKARA) 

(Takht-Baln. Copyright ■ Archaeological Dept, of India) 


230 BODHISATVA UNDER THE PROTECTION 
OF MUSALIND 

(Bodhgaj a. Copyright Archaeological Dept, of India) 


THE BUDDHA 


165 

tained that his cousin had no business to injure a harmless being for sport. Devadatta 
reviled him, and departed in wrath saying that he would get the bird through the proper 
channel. He then went and complained to the Assembly of Elders who sent for Siddhartha 
and asked for an explanation. Siddhartha maintained that the bird belonged to the one 
who nursed it, and not to the one who disabled it. The Elders upheld this view and gave 
judgment in favour of Siddhartha. 

Devadatta never forgave his cousin and remained, as we shall see later, his life-long 
enemy. 

Suddhodana, because of the prediction of the astrologers, took every care to guard 
his son from any unseemly sights that might put into his mind thoughts of senility, sick- 
ness, death or renunciation. He had three palaces built for the residence of the prince and 
in these “every delight abounded and sorrow and death might not even be mentioned.” 
Able soldiers guarded the palaces day and night. 

Marriage 

When Siddhartha was sixteen years of age, arrangements were made for his marriage. 
The maiden Suddhodana selected for his son was Yasodhara, daughter of a chief named 
Dandapani. But Dandapani, as mentioned elsewhere, would not give his daughter in 
marriage to one w 1.0 was not a soldier, and Siddhartha was asked to give proof of his skill 
in arms ; according a tournament was held. 

“On the appu .red day, the first person to appear on the scene was Devadatta 

He was beside himself with jealousy, and seeing a white elephant of great size brought into 
the city, he laid hold of it by the trunk with his left hand and killed it with one blow of the 
right. After Dcvada**a, came prince Sundamand who asked the multitude who had killed 
the elephant. They named Devadatta. ‘It is an evil deed of Devadatta,' he exclaimed, 
and seizing the carcass of the animal by the tail threw it outside the city gate. Gautama 
came next and he asked the crowd : ‘Who has killed the elephant ? * 'Devadatta,' they 
said. ‘This is an evil deed of Devadatta'; said Siddhartha. ‘By whom,' he asked again, 
‘was it thrown outside the city gate ? ’ ‘By Sundamand’; they replied. ‘That,' said the 
prince, ‘is a good deed. Yet this beast has such a great carcass that when it rots it will fill 
the whole city with stench.' Then standing on the carriage he put out one foot to the 
ground ; and with his great toe lifted the elephant by the tail and hurled it over the seven 
walls and seven moats of the city, and it fell in a place two miles distant from the city.” 

" In the tournament the intellectual and military skill of the combatants was tested. 
In practically every item, Siddhartha beat his opponents. He stood first in horse race, 
chariot Tace, music, recitation, mathematics and elocution. In archcry and wrestling, 
Devadatta and Siddhartha were acclaimed equals. In fencing Siddhartha did not take 
part, and Devadatta stood first. 

On the last day of the tournament, Yasodhara entered the lists with a garland in 
her hand to choose her husband and, as Devadatta stood up expectantly to receive the 
garland, she bestowed it upon the neck of Siddhartha. 

A different version of Siddhartha’s marriage is also told. According to this, 
Suddhodana, so as to enable his son to choose the most beautiful damsel in the Kingdom 
for a bride, caused a number of jewels to be made, and had it proclaimed that the prince 
would present them one by one to the maidens of the noble families of the realm. Five 
hundred maidens came to receive the gifts, and when all the jewels had been given away, 



i66 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


Yasodhara arrived. She smiled at the prince and asked him playfully if he had nothing 
to give her. Siddhartha took his signet ring and bestowed it upon her, and thus accepted 
her as his bride. 

For some time after marriage Siddhartha lived happily with his wife. He found 
delight in the company of the beautiful Yasodhara. The palaces and parks resounded with 
melodious music, and dancers skilled in their art amused the royal couple. There was no 
talk of sorrow or death. Siddhartha ate the choicest food, drank cool perfumed drinks, 
made love to his young wife and was as happy as man could be. 

"The Four Signs" 

"Meanwhile the Devas reflected that time was passing and the Great One ought 
no longer to linger amid the pleasures of the palace, but must go forth on his mission. They 
therefore filled all space with this thought, ‘It is time to go forth,’ so that it reached the mind 
of the prince ; and at the same time the music of the singers and the gestures of the dancers 
assumed a new meaning, and seemed to tell no more of sensuous delights but of the 
impermanence and vanity of every object of desire.” 

Now the prince felt tired of the pleasures of the palace and wished to visit the city. 
Suddhodana gave orders to clean and decorate the roads, and special instructions were 
given to see that no old or sick men came near the roads. But in spite of all the precautions 
of the king, the Devas defeated his purpose. One of them assumed the shape of an old 
man and, when Siddhartha drove out into the city, appeared before his chariot. He was 
"aged, worn out, with swollen veins on his body and broken teeth, wrinkled and grey- 
haired, bent, crooked as a root, broken, leaning on a stick, feeble, without youth. Iris throat 
uttering inarticulate sounds, his body bent and supported by a staff, trembling in all his 
limbs and parts of limbs.” 

Seeing this strange figure Siddhartha asked his charioteer: "What human form is 
this, so miserable and so distressing, the like of which I have never seen before ?” The 
charioteer replied : "This is what is called an old man.” The prince again asked the 
charioteer what he meant by the word 'old'. "Old age implies.” said the charioteer, 
“the loss of bodily power, decay of the vital functions, and failure of mind and memory. 
This poor man before you is old and approaching his end.” 

The prince asked again : “Is this law universal ?” “Yes,” replied the charioteer, 
"this is the common lot of all living creatures. All that is bom must die.” 

The prince became melancholy, and ordered his charioteer to drive him back to 
the palace. 

Next day, when the prince went out, he saw a sick man. "He was overcome by 
hot fever, his body exhausted, soiled by his own excreta, without any one to help him, 
without shelter and breathing with difficulty.” Siddhartha enquired of his charioteer: 
"Who is this unhappy being ?” "This is a sick man,” said the charioteer. "Is sickness 
common to all men ?” asked the prince again. “Yes, sickness comes to all,” was the 
reply. Siddhartha became thoughtful and asked his charioteer to drive him home. 

On the third day the prince saw a dead body carried on a bier. "Who is this, borne 
onwards on his bed, covered with strangely coloured garments, surcounded by people 
weeping and lamenting ?” asked the prince. "This,” said the charioteer, "is the dead 
body of a man ; he has ended his life ; he has no further beauty of form and no desires of 
any kind ; he is one with the stones and the felled tree ; he is like a ruined wall or fallen 



THE BUDDHA 


167 

leaf ; no more shall he see his father or mother, brother or sister, or relatives either ; his 
body is dead, and your body also must come to this." The last words of the charioteer 
went home. "Siddhartha, thou too shalt die.;" the prince heard someone say. 

On the fourth day the prince saw a monk standing on the road, “quiet, tranquil, 
full of discretion and self-control, not allowing his glance to wander, nor looking farther 
than the length of a yoke, having attained the path that brings peace of mind and honour 
showing that peace of mind in his forward and his backward steps, peace of mind in the 
looking and the turning away of his eyes, peace of mind in his bending and his stretching, 
peace of mind in the wearing of his coat, begging-bowl and monk’s frock." 

“ 'Who is this? * the prince enquired. This man,' said the charioteer, 'devotes 
himself to charity, and restrains his appetites and his bodily desires. He hurts nobody, 
but does good to all and is full of sympathy for all.' " 

“Then the prince asked the ascetic to give an account of himself. The latter replied : 
'I am called a homeless ascetic ; I have forsaken the world, relatives and friends ; I seek 
deliverance for myself and desire the salvation of all creatures, and I do harm to none.' ’’ 

The words of the monk and his appearance fired the imagination of the troubled 
prince. At last he had found a man whose thoughts were similar to his own. An irresistible 
longing to follow the monk seized him. But at that moment news of the birth of a son 
was brought to him, and he returned home. 

Renunciation 

On seeing the 'four signs’ Siddhartha made up his mind to retire from the world. 
He felt there -was no meaning in living in the midst of pleasures if the end of life be senility, 
decay and death. He pitied man who, blind to the gaping chasm beneath, lived as though 
momentary pleasures were realities. 

Siddhartha told his father of his resolution to lead a religious life. Suddhodana was 
dismayed. He tried to persuade his son to give up the idea and, not succeeding in this, 
decided to prevent his son's escape. He doubled the strength of the guards of the palace, 
reinforced the women's apartments and asked the dancing girls to divert the prince’s 
attention to mundane matters by their seductive art. 

On the night Siddhartha had decided to depart, there was revelry as on no other 
occasion. The revellers sang, drank deep and fell asleep where they sat. "Siddhartha 
beheld the sight of his women lying dead in sleep, some with their garments tom away, 
others with dishevelled hair, some with their ornaments fallen off, others with broken 
diadems, some whose shoulders were bruised and others with naked limbs and mouths 
awry and eyes squinting . . . .And meditating on the idea of purity and penetrating the 
idea of impurity, he saw that from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, the body 
originates in impurity, is compounded of impurity, and exhales impurity without end. 
Then he spoke : ‘O hell of living beings, with many entrances ; dwelling-place of death 
and age, what wise man, having looked thereon, would not consider his own body to be his 
enemy ? ’ ” 

He went away from the place and asked his charioteer to get his favourite horse ready 
for a journey. Siddhartha then entered Yasodhara’s apartments. She lay asleep with her 
babe Rahula, who was then seven days old. The father desired to fondle his child. But 
one of the hands of Yasodhara lay resting on the child and Siddhartha, afraid of awaking 
her, restrained his parental impulse and left the room. 



i68 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


The Devas aided the departure of Siddhartha. The gates of the palace were held 
open by them and they lulled the guards to sleep. Siddhartha rode on his horse Kantaka, 
and Channa followed him. The charioteer, with tears in his eyes, entreated the prince to 
give up the idea of flight, but Siddhartha pacified him by saying that he was going for the 
good of all. They travelled throughout the night and by morning reached a river. 
Siddhartha crossed the river and asked Channa : "What is the name of this river ? ” 
"Anoma” (illustrious), said Channa. "From here,” said the prince, “I retire from the 
world.” He then asked Channa to return home with the horse. But the faithful charioteer 
wanted to accompany his master. “No, Channa,” said Siddhartha, "your time is not yet 
come. Besides, my father will grieve for my absence without knowing what came of me, 
and so you go back and tell him not to grieve for me.” Channa now kissed his master's 
feet and Kantaka licked them with his tongue. Then the two returned. But the horse 
after walking a few paces fell down and died, and Channa came back alone to Kapilavastu 
and narrated to Suddhodana all that had happened. Yasodhara, on hearing the sad story, 
cut off her hair and lived the life of a nun. 

The Search After Truth 

While Siddhartha was proceeding on his journey, he saw a hunter with whom he 
exchanged clothes. Presently he saw a barber who shaved his head. The hunter and 
the barber were Devas who had assumed these forms for the purpose. 

After a few days’ wandering, Siddhartha became the disciple of a Brahmin teacher 
of Vaisali named Arara Kalama who had three hundred disciples. He learnt everything 
that Kalama had to teach but Kalama's system did not satisfy Siddhartha. He declined 
an offer of Kalama to remain as his assistant and again started on his quest. 

From Vaisali Siddhartha proceeded to the kingdom of Magadha and took up his 
abode in Rajagriha, where king Bimbisara visited him and requested him, in vain, to give 
up his religious life and return to Kapilavastu. Bimbisara -was much impressed by the 
earnestness of Siddhartha and asked to remember him if, at any time, he found a solution 
to the riddle of life. 

Near Rajagriha was a famous college of philosophy conducted by the sophist 
Rudraka. Siddhartha attended the lectures but found that mere acquisition ol knowledge 
could bring no enlightenment and so he left the college. Five students of Rudraka, seeing 
Gautama's earnestness and spirit of enquiry, became his disciples and followed him. 
Siddhartha now decided to practise austerities in the manner of Hindu sages. He fasted 
or ate only a modicum of millet seed, exposed himself to wind and rain and took Yogic 
exercises. His health suffered and his body was reduced to a skeleton. One day, while he 
was practising an exercise in breathing, he fainted and was on the point of death. He, 
however, recovered but felt that asceticism would bring him no enlightenment. He went 
out again begging for food and received a dainty meal as an offering from Sujata, daughter 
of a rich villager. She offered it in a golden dish, and to Siddhartha it seemed a good omen. 
“He took the food and went out of the village and bathed in a river, and would have crossed 
to the other side, but the current carried him away, and had it not been that a Deva dwell- 
ing in a certain great tree on the farther bank stretched out his jewelled arm to draw him, 
to land, he would have been drowned. He reached the shore, however, and sat down to 
take his meal ; after which he cast the golden dish into the river where it was caught by a 
Naga, who took it to his palace. But Sakra, in the form of a Garuda, snatched it from the 
Naga’s hand and carried it to the Tusita heavens.” 



THE BUDDHA 


169 

In the meantime messengers were daily coming to Siddhartha from Suddhodana 
requesting him to return to his father. He sent them away with a final message that the 
resolution he had taken was irrevocable and Suddhodana ought to rejoice rather than 
grieve. 

When Siddhartha's five disciples saw that he had given up asceticism, they took him for 
a failure and deserted him. Thus Siddhartha was again left alone to tread the difficult path. 

Enlightenment 

Well over seven years did Siddhartha spend in the search. But the end seemed still 
far off. Neither learning nor self-mortification brought him enlightenment. Was there, 
after all, no solution to the riddle of life ? Had he deserted his wife and parents and under- 
gone privations, all in vain ? Anyway there was no going back. He would pursue the 
path till he got what he wanted or perish in the attempt. With this grim determination, 
he proceeded to the Bo-trce bom on the same day as himself. The gods rejoiced because 
the great event was near at hand. Thousands of them accompanied him as he proceeded 
towards the sacred tree. Birds soared in joy over his head. 

Reaching the Bo-trce Siddhartha sat down under it determined not to get up till he 
found a solution to the riddle of life. Now there was joy in heaven, but evil spirits la- 
mented. The cliiet of the latter, Mara,* marched towards the Bo-tree with an army of 
demons to distract Siddhartha and prevent his attaining Buddhahood. First Mara went 
10 Siddhartha disguised as a messenger from Suddhodana and informed him that Devadatta 
had usurped the throne and was oppressing his subjects. But Siddhartha observed that 
if the Sakya chiefs were cowardly enough to tolerate an oppressive tyrant, they deserved no 
better ruler, and took to his meditation undisturbed by the news. Then Mara raised a 
violent storm and rain, and his army assailed Siddhartha with javelins, swords, arrows, 
rocks, hillocks and burning charcoal, but none of them had any effect on Siddhartha, for 
the gods protected him. Threats proving of no avail, Mara sent his two daughters to 
seduce him. But Siddhartha preached a sermon to them and the ladies went away blessing 
him. 


The fight started at eventide and went on throughout the night. By morning the 
two temptresses departed and enlightenment dawned upon Siddhartha, and he became the 
Buddha. He understood the mystery and meaning of existence. "I have attained the 
Buddhaship,” he exclaimed ; “I have overcome Mara ; all evil desire is destroyed, I am 
lord of the three worlds.” 

The Teacher 

The Buddha had now solved the mystery of life. But he found that the path to 
enlightenment and Nirvana was difficult to tread. He feared that the ordinary run of 
mankind, caught in the maze of the unreal pleasures of the world, were not likely to under- 
stand him and pay heed to his teaching. Then what was he to do ? Was he to keep the 
newly acquired secret to himself and tread the path alone, or turn the Wheel of Law for 
the benefit of a world without understanding ? The Blessed One thought thus : "I have 
penetrated this doctrine which is profound, difficult to perceive and to understand, which 
brings quietude of heart, which is exalted, which is unattainable by reasoning, ^ abstruse, 
intelligible (only) to the wise. These people, on the other hand, are given to desire, intent 

• Mara is the Hind a god of love elaborated by the Buddhists into an embodiment of evil. Sexual desire being considered 
by Buddhists as the greatest enemy of man, the god of desire was given the role of The Enemy. 



170 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


upon desire, delighting in desire. To these people, therefore, the law of causality and the 
chain of causation will be a matter difficult to understand ; most difficult to understand 
will be also the extinction of all Samskars, the getting rid of all the sub-strata of existence, 
the destruction of desire, the absence of passion, quietude of heart. Nirvana. Now if I 
proclaim the doctrine and other men are not able to understand my preaching, there would 
result but weariness and annoyance to me." 

Now Brahma appeared before the Buddha and prayed to him with joined hands to 
teach the Dharma to mankind. But Mara put unholy thoughts into the mind of the Blessed 
One and told him that he should attain Nirvana alone. Good, however, triumphed over 
evil, and the Buddha decided to preach and convert mankind to the newly found way of 
liberation. 

Shortly after making this resolve, two merchants came that way and offered food to 
the Buddha. He ate with them and preached to them. They were converted and became 
his first lay followers. The Buddha now decided to preach his doctrine to Kalama and 
Rudraka, the two Brahmin teachers under whom he had lived as a disciple. On his way 
he had to cross the Ganges, but he had no money to pay the ferryman. So, when the ferry- 
man demanded the toll, the Buddha said to him : "Row me across the river, and I shall row 
you across the ocean of life." The ferryman, however, did not agree to this, and the Buddha 
soared over the stream. 

On reaching the other side of the Ganges, the Buddha learnt that Kalama and 
Rudraka were no more. But the five disciples who had deserted him were still alive, and 
he preached to them and converted them. They were his first disciples and, together with 
himself formed the first order of Buddhist monks. 

The number of disciples and lay followers increased, and the Buddha selected men 
to preach the new doctrine far and wide, he himself remaining in a particular area. 

The gist of the Buddha's teaching is that life is misery, and all people should strive 
to obtain liberation from the chain of existence by means of good deeds. Says the Buddha : 
"Birth is painful, decay is painful, death is painful, union with the unpleasant is painful, 
painful is the separation from the pleasant, and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is 
painful." Again, “what think ye, disciples," he asks, "whether is more the water which 
is in the great oceans or the tears which have flowed from you and have been shed by you, 
while ye strayed and wandered on this long pilgrimage and sorrowed and wept, because that 
was your portion, and that which ye loved was not your portion ? A mother’s death, a 
brother’s death, the loss of relatives, the loss of property, all this you have experienced 
through long ages, and while ye experienced it through long ages, more tears have flowed 
from you and have been shed by you, while ye strayed and wandered on this pilgrimage 
and sorrowed and wept, because that was your portion which ye abhorred and that which 
ye loved was not your portion, than all the waters in the four great oceans."* 

"Buddha's four ‘Sublime Verities’ containing the germ of his system are as follows : 
The first is that pain exists ; the second, that desire is the cause of pain ; the third that pain 
can be ended by Nirvana or exemption from existence, practical annihilation ; the fourth 
shows the way that leads to Nirvana. The great thing is to get rid of desire, and when this 
is accomplished, the soul is ready for complete Nirvana, and a man dying in this state will 
not be bom again." 

About caste, the Buddha said it was a matter of common consent and not of birth. 
"Birth cannot make a Brahmin any more than a non-Brahmin. It is by work and merit, 
by his wisdom, piety and self-sacrifice that one becomes a Brahmin.” 

* OMenberg. 



THE BUDDHA 


171 

The success of Buddha’s mission was mainly due to his extraordinary personality 
and the glamour of a prince turned saint. The Buddha's fame spread far and wide and he 
went from city to city preaching and making converts. "In one of his wanderings he came 
upon a nest of five hundred robbers to whom he preached and at whose hands he ate. They 
were all reclaimed and exchanged the tools of burglary for the bowls and staves of piety/' 

At Srivasti, the Buddha converted thousands of people by working miracles. He 
walked on air emitting waves of light from his body ; then he preached to the people multi- 
plying himself manifold. 

Among the Buddha's converts were princes, scholars, sophists, philosophers and men 
of all occupations and castes. When he stayed in the city of Raj agriha, king Bimbisara 
himself came to do him honour with a retinue of 'twelve myriads of men’. The king and 
most of his retinue were converted. Bimbisara remained a friend of the Buddha to the end 
of his life and was an able patron of Buddhism. 

The Buddha now thought of his home. His son Rahula had also grown up into a 
young man and persuaded Suddhodana to send for the Buddha. When the invitation 
came, the Buddha was much touched by the message and decided to visit the home of his 
childhood. Accordingly he started for Kapilavastu at the head of a procession of monks 
and disciples. On reaching the city, he went on his usual begging round and the news 
of this reaching Brajapati, she went in a panic to Suddhodana and said to him : “My son 
is walking from house to house begging for alms." Suddhodana, deeply agitated, went 
to his son and asked him why he was thus bringing disgrace on the royal house. "Do 
you not belong to the race of kings ?” he said. “The race to which I belong”, replied 
the Buddha meaning the race of Buddhas, “beg for their food." The Buddha then preached 
to his father. “0 Father," said he, “I have now found the Law ; and when one finds a 
treasure, to whom can he offer it more fittingly than to his own father ? So do I offer it 
to you. Do not delay ; let me share with you the treasure I have found." 

Suddhodana spake no more. He took hold of his son’s begging bowl and led him 
home. There he was welcomed by all the household; but one of them was missing. It 
was his wife Yasodhara. She was not there. She had studiously kept herself away as she 
wanted to test his love and see if her husband would miss her and ask for her. Gautama 
understood why she was not present. He exclaimed : “The princess is not free from 
desires as I am. She is sorrowing alone because she has not seen me for long. Let her 
embrace me lest her heart should break.” So saying the Buddha entered her apartments. 
Yasodhara was overcome with emotion and she fell down at his feet to kiss them, and 
wept. Suddhodana then narrated to him how she had been sorrowing for his absence, 
and living the life of a nun. “When ray daughter heard, O Master," said he, “that you 
had put on the yellow robes, from that time forth she dressed only in yellow ; when she hfiard 
of your taking but one meal a day, she adopted the same custom ; when she heard that 
you renounced the use of elevated couches, she slept on a mat spread on the floor ; when 
she heard you had given up the use of garlands and unguents, she also used them no more. 
And when her relations sent a message saying ‘Let us take care of you,' she paid no attention 
to them. Such are my daughter’s virtues, O Blessed One." 

The next touching scene was the meeting between Nanda (called Ananda in the 
scriptures) and the Buddha. The marriage of Ananda had been arranged to take place 
the next day. “Gautama went up to the pavilion where Nanda was lodged and told him 
that 'the greatest festival of all is the life of a monk who has vanquished all evil desires 
and acquired the knowledge of truth, and Nirvana. He then gave Him his own alms-bowl 
and took him to the grove where he had been staying." There Nanda was converted and 



172 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


remained his most devoted disciple to the end of his life. Some accounts relate that Nanda 
was converted on being shown a vision of heaven and goddesses. 

The story of the conversion of Rahula is also told. Yasodhara sent her son to his 
father to demand of him his patrimony. Rahula went to his father and said : “Father, 
I am the prince ! when I am crowned a king over all the earth, I have need of treasure ; 
for son is heir to liis father’s property.” On hearing this the Blessed One turned to his 
disciple Sariputra and said : “Beloved disciple, Rahula has come to ask me for his inherit- 
ance. He asks for a worldly inheritance which cannot last. I will give him a spiritual 
inheritance which would be everlasting. Let him be admitted to our Order." 

Suddhodana made a last effort to reclaim his son and make him a king. But the 
Buddha refused, and said that Sauvana, Rahula’s son, should be considered Suddhodana's 
heir, as Nanda and Rahula had become monks. 

Yasodhara and Prajapati became his disciples, and, later, with the reluctant per- 
mission of the Buddha, founded the order of nuns. 

The Buddha also visited the Lmnbini grove where he was born, and then departed 
from Kapilavastu amidst the lamentations of Suddhodana and his people. 

Nor was preaching all that the Buddha did. A story is told of how he prevented a 
battle which was about to be fought between the Sakyas and the Kolis. The river Rohini 
flowed between Kapilavastu and Koli and in a year of drought people of both the cities 
claimed sole right for the use of the water. A battle seemed imminent when the Buddha 
came upon the scene. He asked the people : "Which do you price more, the waters of 
Rohini or the life of men ?’’ They replied that the life of men is more precious than the 
waters of Rohini. Then he exposed to them the folly of wasting life for the waters of 
Rohini and settled the dispute to the satisfaction of both the parties. 

Devadatta 

The proselytizing zeal of the Buddha created many enemies for him. The Brahmins 
were particularly alarmed, because their privileged position was challenged for the first 
time. There had been, of course, many thinkers like the materialist Brahaspati, who, 
even before the Buddha, had taught doctrines contrary to Brahminism. But they and a 
few disciples held these impious views and these views mostly died with them. Bat here, 
in Buddha’s method, was a new technique unprecedented in the history of the development 
of Indian religious thought. Preaching to the masses and conversion of hundreds of people 
were unknown before. And the Brahmins feared, with good reason, that if the Buddha 
were allowed to have his own way, they would be deprived of their privileged position 
and even daily bread; hence they and certain leaders of other sects decided to combat him 
by fair means or foul. 

Three attempts on the life of the Buddha are recorded. All were instigated 
by Devadatta. Indeed, the evil deeds attributed to this person are so many that he 
appears to be more a conception than an individual. He is said to have attained 
much power, occult and material, by austerities and intrigues. He had many disciples 
and had managed to worm his way into the confidence of Ajasat (Ajatasatru), 
Bimbisara’s son, who under the instigation of Devadatta, murdered his own father and 
seized the throne. 

As soon as Ajasat became king, Devadatta asked for, and got from him 
thirty-one able men to carry out the foul deed he was contemplating. He deputed, 






PLATE LXXXVIII 



rut. - V.Z BEHOLDING 
THE CHILD 
G' iaaredtl s HudihiU 


Arl in India) 



242 THE ELEPH ANT CH \D \NT A 
(Ajanta Btal Si-j u-fc«) 





*39 


THE MIRACLE AT SR1VASTI 
(Lahore Museum) 


240 rEASTING BY THE JIALLAS OF KUSINAGARA 
ON RECEIVING THEIR SHARE OF THE RELICS 
(Sanchi Copyright. Archaeological Dept. o£ India) 














*39 


THE MIRACLE AT SRIVASTI 
(Lahore Museuro) 


240 FE i STING BY THE MALLAS OF KUS1NAGARA 
ON RECEIVING THEIR SHARE OF THE RELICS 
(Sanchi. Cop> right • Archaeological Dept, of India) 


««M8JfcOlQ| 





*43 BUDDHA AND HIS SON 
BAKU LA 

(Amravatl. 1 rom i'crgusson's 
Tut and Serpent H'orshtp ) 


244 SIDDHAHTltA ABOUT TO DEPART PROM HIS HOME 
(Jamalgarhi. Lahore Museum) 



THE BUDDHA 


173 

one of them to murder the Buddha, two to murder the murderer, four to murder 
the two, eight to murder the four and the remaining sixteen to murder the eight. The 
last sixteen Devadatta decided to murder himself so that the matter might be kept secret. 
But all the would-be murderers, on seeing the Buddha and hearing his sermons, became 
his disciples and lived with him. 

On another occasion, while the Buddha was walking by the foot of a cliff, Devadatta 
had a rock propelled at him. The Blessed One had a narrow escape, the rock having broken 
into two and slightly hint his foot. 

Devadatta made yet another attempt on the life of the Buddha. Malagiri, a 
fierce elephant, was given an extra dose of beer, and let loose on the path of the Buddha 
while he was begging for alms. The friars who were accompanying the Buddha were 
frightened and entreated him to escape. The Buddha paying no heed to their entreaties, 
they dec'ded to protect him and formed a ring round him. But he peremptorily ordered 
them back to their proper places. In spite of this, Ananda decided to walk in front of him 
and face “‘•'beast, but a temporary paralysis came upon him and he found himself unable 
to move.) ' 

' 

Thf t bant, while approaching the Buddha, saw a cliild which he was about to 
seize when Blessed One ordered the beast to leave the cliild alone. Obedient to this 

command, > depliant left the child and ran towards the Buddha. But when it came 

near the Bi v .d One "its fury abated and it approached in the gentlest way and knelt 
before him.? -The Buddha now preached to the elephant and it "repeated the five com- 
mandments *r£ M the people." 

After me conversion of the elephant, the Buddha sent his disciples to preach to the 
followers of Devadatta. Tliis mission was successful, and the disciples of Devadatta 
deserted him while he lay asleep, and went over to the Buddha. Shortly after, Devadatta 
fell ill and lay ailing for nine months. Tliis misfortune seemed to have brought him 
repentance. For, as soon as he recovered, he decided to visit the Buddha, and proceeded 
towards the monastery in which he lived. But as he approached the gate of the monastery 
the earth gaped and shot up flames of fire which began to consume him. Devadatta cried 
out to the Buddha for help "repeated a verse of a hymn, by which he accepted the three 
gems, the Buddha, the Law and the Church ; and this will help him eventually, though he 
none-the-less went to hell and received a body of fire sixteen hundred miles in height.” 

The Buddha visits Tavatimsa (Trayatimsa) Heaven 

Now the Devas beheld the wonders wrought upon the earth by the Blessed 
One and desired to see him in their midst. Accordingly the Buddha visited Tava- 
timsa heaven and remained there for three months. Indra decorated his own throne 
for the Blessed One to sit. But the throne of India was fifteen leagues in height whereas 
the height of the Blessed One was only twelve cubits. India did not know how to adjust 
the throne to the proportion of the distinguished visitor, but when the Buddha approached 
the throne, it reduced itself to convenient dimensions and looked as though it was specially 
made for the Buddha. The Blessed One preached to the Devas and myriads of ties 
entered the paths. 



m 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


the Devas with instruments of music ; and on the silver ladder the Brahmas, carrying 
umbrellas. Thus the Buddha returned to his own hermitage.” 

Attainment of Nirvana 

The Buddha lived to a ripe old age and was eighty-four when he died. The end 
was, however, hastened by a regrettable incident. While he was staying in a mango grove 
in Pava, a smith named Chunda desired to entertain him. He prepared a dish of pork and 
offered it to the Buddha. The Buddha ate it, but it gave him a colic which took a serious 
turn. The old man's body was already feeble and he felt the end was nigh. Lest Chunda 
should be blamed, he spoke to his disciples: “Inform the smith Chunda that Ids offering 
will bring great reward, for it will be the immediate cause of my attaining Nirvana. There 
are indeed two offerings which will bring great reward.. One was given by the lady Sujata 
before I reached supreme wisdom, the other has just now been made by Chunda. These 
are the two foremost gifts.” 

The Buddha was removed from the main camp to a grove of Sal trees owned by the 
Mallas of Kusinagra. The news of his illness spread throughout the neighbouring king- 
doms, and princes, nobles, queens, priests, enquirers and all manner of people came to see 
him. Although he was on the point of death, he gave strict instructions to the attendants 
to allow everyone to come to him, particularly those who had any doubts to clear. 

When the end was approaching, the Buddha spoke to Ananda : “Now I depart 
to Nirvana ; I leave with you my ordinances ; the elements of the all-knowing one will 
indeed pass away, but the three gems will remain.” “But Ananda broke down and wept 
bitterly. Then the Buddha continued : 'O Ananda, do not let yourself be troubled ; do 
not weep. Have I not taught you that we must part from all that we hold most dear and 
pleasant ? No being soever bom or created can overcome the tendency to dissolution 
inherent in life itself ; a condition of permanence is impossible. For a long time, Ananda, 
your kindness in act and thought and speech has brought you very near to me. You have 
always done well ; persevere, and you too, shall win perfect freedom from this thirst of life, 
this chain of ignorance.’ Then he turned to the other mourners and commended Ananda 
to them. He said also that the least of those present who had entered the path to release 
should never entirely fail, but should at last prevail and reach Nirvana. After a pause he 
said again : 'Mendicants, I now impress it upon you that the parts and powers of man must 
be dissolved ; work out your salvation with diligence.* Shortly afterward the Buddha 
became unconscious and passed away.”* 

The body lay in state for six days. On the seventh, it was burnt. It is said that 
attempts at setting fire to the pile failed but when the appointed time came, it ignited itself. 
After the body was consumed, the relics of the Blessed One remained like a "heap of pearls”. 

Eight princes claimed the relies and they disputed so violently for possession of them 
that it looked as though there would be a war for the remains of the man who, throughout 
his life, had striven for peace and goodwill among men. Reason, however, prevailed and 
the relics were divided into eight parts and each one was given to a prince. The princes 
took them to their respective kingdoms and enshrined them in beautiful Stupas. Worship 
of the relics and the Stupas is a distinguishing feature of Buddhism. 

Some Distinctive Buddhist Myths 

The Hinayana or primitive Buddhism generally followed the teachings of the Buddha 

* Myths of lit Hindus and Buddhists, by Sr. Xiveditta and Coomaxas'n amy. 



THE BUDDHA 


175 

and his immediate disciples, and as such laid greater stress on the simple moral life than on 
learning, speculation or ritual ; but the rise of the Mahayana (Greater Vehicle), gave Bud- 
dhism a pantheon and mythology, as varied and fantastic as those of Hinduism. The 
rise of the Mahayana is connected with the conversion of the Kushans to Buddhism whose 
empire extended beyond Persia and Central Asia, and one of the avowed objects of the 
Mahayana being to establish Buddhism as a world religion by absorbing and modifying 
alien religions, many Persian and Central Asian myths and beliefs found their way Into 
Buddhism and enriched its lore. While it is quite impossible to deal here with the many 
foreign cults that influenced Buddhism in its eventful history in and outside India, a few 
of the more important beliefs that developed in India itself may be mentioned.* 

The Buddhas 

Gautama Buddha had declared that he was not the only Buddha, but several Buddhas 
or enlightened beings had made known the Law to the worlds before him and many would, 
after his Parinirvana. He did not mention the exact number of the Buddhas, but by the 
time of the Third Council of Buddhism held in 243 B.C. in Pataliputra under the auspices 
of the Emperor Asoka, the Buddhist Church had declared that the Buddhas who preceded 
Gautama were twenty-four. A good many details about their birth place, stature, the 
trees under which they obtained enlightenment etc., are given in the Pali scriptures. Their 
names are : (1) Dipankara, (2) Kaundinya, (3) Mangala, (4) Sumanas, (5) Raivata, (6) So- 
bhita, (7) Anavamadarsin, (8) Padma, (9) Narada, (10) Padmottara, (11) Sumedha, (12) Su- 
jata, (13) Priyadarsin, (14) Arthadarsin, (15) Dharmadarsin, (16) Siddhartha, (17) Tisbya, 
(18) Pushya, (19) Vipasyin, (20) Sikliin, (21) Visvabhu, (22) Krakucchanda, (23) Kanaka- 
muni or Konagamana, and (24) Kasyapa. 

The last five of these are believed to have appeared in the present Kalpa or world 
cycle. They, together with Gautama Buddha and Maitreya (more of whom presently) 
constitute the Seven Buddhas of the current Kalpa. The idea has a close resemblance 
to the Seven Manus of the Hindu Manwantaras, already noticed. 

While the Hinayana conception stops here, the Mahayana carries the idea further. 
According to Mahayana conceptions Buddhas are not twenty-four or twenty-six but innu- 
merable ; but five out of these, known as Dhyani Buddhas arc the most important. They 
ate in effect the Dhyani (meditative) forms of the last human Buddhas of the current Kalpa 
and are known as Vairochana (of Krakucchanda), Akshobhya (of Kanakamuni), Ratna 
Sambbava (of Kasyapa), Amitabha (of Gautama) and Amogha Siddha. (of Maitreya). 
Above all these Dhyani Buddhas is the Adi Buddha or Primordial Buddha, who is more 
or less identical with the Supreme Being of the Brahmins. 

Tantric influences invested each Dhyani Buddha with a Sakti or female companion. 
Nor is the Adi Buddha without a Sakti. His Sakti is known as Prajna (transcendent 
wisdom) and creation is believed to have emanated from, a union of the two. 

Bodhisatvas 

One of the distinctive features of Mahayana Buddhism, as compared with the Hina- 
yana, is the worship of Bodhisatvas. These are, more or less, gods of mercy and compassion 
with Paradises of their own where they admit their devotees for the enjoyment of the 
pleasures of the senses before they are dissolved into Nirvana. 

The older school relied more on individual efforts for the attainment of Nirvana 
than on any help from above. But popular Buddhism found the ideal too elevating for 

•Buddhism outside India has bee a dealt within greater detail ia the author*»woilc Tkt Story of tit C ulturgi Emfut of Inin. 



176 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


the weakness of generality of men, and Mahayana came to humanity's aid by supplying a 
pantheon of Bodhisatvas, ever ready to help suffering creatures and willing to hear their 
supplications, and amenable to their prayers. 

In the next chapter it will be seen that Gautama Buddha, before he was bom in 
the womb of Mahamaya, was considered a Buddha Elect or Bodhisatva. He attained 
this position by virtue of a vow he had taken to obtain enlightenment and become a Buddha, 
and from then on went through various rebirths in each of which he did his utmost to help 
suffering creatures. By the accumulated merit of these virtuous deeds he was translated 
to the Tusita heaven where he presided as the reigning Bodhisatva till his time came to 
appear on earth in his last birth as Gautama. And when he descended to the earth, he 
appointed Maitreya as his successor in Tusita heaven ; Maitreya will, in his turn, descend 
to earth when the law taught by Gautama Buddha will be forgotten, which will be exactly 
five thousand years after the death of Gautama Buddha. 

Maitreya (Pali, Metteya) is the only Bodhisatva the Hinayana recognizes. But 
in Mahayana, Bodhisatvas, like the Buddhas, are innumerable. In fact every creature is a 
potential Bodhisatva^ inasmuch as he or she is consciously or unconsciously striving after 
Nirvana ; the recognized Bodhisatva is, however, one who has dedicated his life for the 
alleviation of suffering in the world. The more important of the Bodhisatvas are, however, 
beings who have even refused Buddhahood and the inaction or annihilation it implies, in 
order to help and save suffering creatures, even those condemned to hells. 

Though Bodhisatvas are innumerable, five are the most important. These are the 
sons or emanations of the five Dhyani Buddhas and the main function of these Bodhisatvas 
is to superintend religion in the world during the intervals between one human Buddha 
and another. The names of these Bodhisatvas are : (r) Samanta Bhadra, (2) Vajrapani, 
(3) Ratnapani, (4) Padmapani and (5) Visvapani, emanations of Vairochana, Akshobya, 
Ratna Sainbhava, Amitabha and Amogha Siddha respectively. Buddhism thus has five 
triads, each consisting of a Dhyani Buddha, Dhyani Bodhisatva and a human Buddha ; 
of the five the most important is the triad consisting of Amitabha, Padmapani and Gautama; 
Padma Pani holds a unique position in the theistic Buddhism of all Mahayana countries, 
and in China he underwent a complete transformation and is worshipped as Kuan Yin, 
the goddess of mercy. There are many other Bodhisatvas worshipped in the Mahayana 
countries, too numerous in fact to be mentioned here. 

Buddhist Cosmology 

The Buddhists speak of the universe as a system called Chakravala, divided into 
three main planes : (1) Hells, (2) Worlds of animals, ghosts, demons and men, and (3) 
Heavens. These planes are built below, around and above the mythical mountain Meru. 
The hells, 136 in number, are situated under the base of Meru. Each hell is reserved for a 
particular type of sinner ; the lowest, known as Avici, is the most horrible to which axe 
condemned the revilers of the Buddha and the Law. The Buddhist hells are, however, 
purgatories where the wicked are purified in fire and torture, after which they are reborn 
in some other plane. The shortest duration of hell life is five hundred hell years, each day 
of which equalling fifty years according to human reckoning. 

Above the hells, built around Meru, are four worlds of animals, ghosts, demons and 
men. Over these four worlds rise the first heaven, called the Heaven of the Four Great 
Kings or Maharajahs. The Four Kings are (1) Dhritarashtra, guardian of the East, (2) 
Virudhaka, guardian of the South, (3) Virupaksha, guardian of the West, and (4) Kubera 




s « THE CHEAT DECEASE 

(Gandhata. Indian Museum, Calcutta) 




PLATE XC 





PLATE XCI 












THE BUDDHA 


1 77 


or Vaisravana, guardian of the North. Above the Heaven of Four Kings rises the Traya- 
timsa (Tavatimsa) Heaven of Saka (Sakra, Indra) : this is a Heaven of Thirty-three Divi- 
nities, hence its name Trayatimsa. 

The first two heavens are built round the top of Item ; above these two, rise twenty- 
four heavens which have nothing for support but float in space above Meru. These are 
self-luminous regions, not requiring the light of the sun. The famous Tusita heaven where 
Gautama Buddha resided as the Bodhisatva and Maitreya now waits, is the second of these 
self-luminous regions. The lowest six heavens are known as Deva Lokas inhabited by 
beings who are capable of enjoying the pleasures of the senses. The remaining twenty 
heavens are Dhyana Lokas (regions of abstract meditation) and Arupa Lokas (formless 
worlds), reserved for men of a high order like the Buddhas, Arhats (saints), Pratyeka 
Buddhas (individual Buddhas as distinguished from universal Buddhas who are world 
teachers) etc. 

The Buddhists too like the Hindus believe in world cycles called Kalpas. But the 
Buddhist Kalpa appears to be much longer than the Hindu. ''Suppose,” the Buddha is 
said to have observed, "there is a solid rock, sixteen miles high, sixteen miles broad and 
sixteen miles long and it is gently touched by a fine piece of cloth once in a hundred years ; 
the time taken to wear away the rock is nothing when compared to the ages that constitute 
a Kalpa." 

The Six Gatis 

There are only six possible Gatis or courses of life through which beings have to pass. 
These are : (i) Hell dwellers ; (2) Pretas (Ghosts) 'ever consumed with hunger and thirst'; 
(3) Asuras or demons ; (4) Animals, birds, insects etc., (5) Humans, and (6) Celestials. 
Of these, men and celestials constitute the desirable forms of Gatis and the others are 
considered undesirable. 

For the purposes of rebirth, the Buddhists consider trees and plants, in fact the whole 
vegetable kingdom, as lifeless. 



CHAPTER XV 


JATAKA TALES 

A CCORDING to the belief of the Buddhists, the Buddha did not attain Buddhahood 
in one life. He became perfectly enlightened as the result of good deeds done in 
numerous births reaching back to countless ages. In the rebirths, after he became 
conscious of his mission, he is spoken of as a Bodhisatva (Buddha-elect) and the story of 
Bodhisatva's births is narrated in the Jataka tales. 

In the beginning we are introduced to a person named Sumedha who, on 
meeting Dipankara (the Buddha of the age) and hearing his sermons decides to 
become a Buddha himself. He then scrupulously follows the Law and, after death, 
undergoes a series of births in various forms and places, and at last becomes Santusita, by 
which name he is known during his stay in Tusita heaven prior to his last descent to earth 
as Siddhartha. In the Jataka tales, some five hundred and fifty births of the Bodhisatva 
are mentioned. Of these, "eighty- three times he was an ascetic ; a monarch fifty-eight ; 
the Deva of a tree forty-three ; a religious-teacher twenty-six ; a courtier twenty-four ; 
a Purohita Brahmin twenty-four ; a prince twenty-four ; a nobleman twenty-three ; 
a learned man twenty-two ; the deva Sakra twenty ; an ape eighteen ; a merchant thirteen; 
a man of wealth twelve ; a deer ten ; a lion ten ; a swan eight ; a snipe six ; an elephant 
six ; a fowl five ; a slave five ; a golden eagle five ; a horse four ; a bull four ; Maha- 
brahama four ; a peacock four ; a serpent four ; a potter three ; an outcaste three ; a 
guana three ; twice each a fish, an elephant-driver, a jackal, a crow, a woodpecker, a 
thief, and a pig; and once each a dog, a curer of snake bites, a gambler, a mason, a smith, 
a devildancer, a scholar, a silversmith, a carpenter, a water fowl, a frog, a hare, a 
cock, a kite, a jungle fowl, and a Kindura. It is evident, however, that this list is 
imperfect." 

In most of these births Yasodhara was his mate. The following are some of the 
Jataka tales. 

Bodhisatva as a Hare 

Once upon a time, the Bodhisatva came to life as a hare, and he lived in a wood. 
He had three friends — a monkey, a jackal and an otter. The hare was elected leader of 
the group because of his wisdom and holiness. He taught his followers the greatness of 
charity, contentment and self-sacrifice, and the need for fasting on prescribed days. 

One morning, the otter went out in search of prey, and found some fish buried under- 
ground. The otter dug up the fish, cried three times enquiring if there was anyone to claim 
the fish, and, finding no one, brought it home. Then he remembered that it was a day 
of fast, and hence he refrained from eating it, and thought himself very virtuous on that 
account. 

The jackal who had sallied forth in quest of prey on the same day, came to a hut 
in a field and saw two spits of roasted flesh. He also cried three times enquiring if it had 
any owner, and, finding none, brought it home. But remembering that it was a day of fast 
he kept the fare for the next day. 

The monkey too went out, found some mangoes, brought them home and kept 
the fast. 



JATAKA TALES 


179 

On this day, the hare, while he was sitting on the Kusa grass, on which he used to 
feed, thought of people who might be hungry and starving. “If any person comes to beg 
food of me," thought he, "what will I offer him ? I cannot offer him grass. Well," 
said he, “I will give him my own flesh to eat." 

As soon as the Bodhisatva thought in this manner, the throne of Sakra grew hot. 
This was what always happened when some great event was planned or done on earth. 
Sakra desiring to know why his throne grew' hot, looked down and saw the hare. He knew 
of the thought of the hare and desired to test his sincerity. So he assumed the form of a 
beggar and descended to the earth. 

First Sakra went to the otter and begged for food. The otter offered him fish which 
he politely refused. He then went to the jackal and the monkey in turn, but refused the 
meat and mangoes they offered. Finally he went to the hare and begged for food. The 
hare asked him to lay a fire and, when this w r as done, the Bodhisatva shook his body thrice, 
in order that the lice and vermin living in his coat might escape unhurt, and then jumped 
right into the burning fire so that the mendicant could have roasted meat for his dinner. 
But as soon as the Bodhisatva jumped into the fire the burning embers froze and became 
snow. 

Sakra smiled and revealed his identity. "I wanted to test your sincerity," he said 
to the Bodhisatva. Sakra now desired to perpetuate this great deed of the hare ; so, he 
squeezed a nearby mountain and, with the juice thus obtained, daubed the figure of a hare 
on the moon so that all the world might know of the hare's self-sacrifice, and remember 
it till the end of time. 

Thus the origin of the hare-mark on the moon. 

Bodhisatva as a Judge 

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was king of Benares the Bodhisatva was his 
Chief Justice. He judged causes rightly and people all over the kingdom praised his wisdom. 

At that time there lived in the city of Benares two traders. One of them, when he 
went on a journey, gave the other five hundred ploughshares to keep till his return. But 
no sooner had the owner of the ploughshares departed on his travels than the other sold 
away the ploughshares, kept the money for himself and scattered mouse-dung in the store- 
house where the ploughshares had been kept. Wien the trader who had gone on a journey 
returned and asked for the ploughshares, the one who had sold them told him that they 
had been eaten by mice, and showed the mouse-dung in the storehouse as proof thereof. 

Now, the owner of the ploughshares knew that he was cheated^ but there was no 
use of protesting. So he pretended to believe the story, remarked : “Alas I very unfor- 
tunate 1 " and went to his house. Next day, however, he came back and invited his friend s 
young son for a walk. The boy accepted the invitation and, as the man and the boy were 
walking together, the man fell upon the boy, seized him and locked him up in a room in 
his house. 

The father of the boy, not finding his son, asked the trader who had taken the boy 
for a walk where his son w r as. "Alas, friend 1 " said the trader who had confined the boy 
in his house, "while your son and I were walking on the road, a kite made a swoop and 
carried away the boy. ’ The father of the boy did not believe the story , and asked the trader 
since when kites were known to carry away young men._ "If things that ought not to 
happen do happen/' said the trader, "what can I do, my friend . 



180 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

The father of the boy waxed wroth on hearing these words of the trader, went to the 
court of law and addressed his complaint to the Chief Justice. The Cliief Justice sent for 
the accused and asked him for an explanation ; and finding that the man persisted in saying 
that a kite had carried away the boy, he wanted to know of him since when kites were 
known to carry away young men. “My lord," said the accused, “since the days mice have 
started eating iron ploughshares." 

Now the Bodhisatva thought there was something deeper in the matter and asked 
for an explanation from the accused. The accused narrated to him the story of the 
ploughshares, upon which, the Bodhisatva understood on whom the guilt lay, and asked 
the father of the boy to return the price of the ploughshares to their owner. This was done, 
and the boy was released and sent back to his father. 

The Bodhisatva thus gave fair judgment in all cases and people praised his wisdom. 

Bodhisatva as a Lion 

Once, the Bodhisatva was bom as a lion, and when he grew into a strong, beautiful 
animal, he made his home in a forest near the Western Ocean. 

Now, in a palmgrove on the shores of the Western Ocean there lived a hare. One 
day, the hare, after feeding, laid himself down to sleep under a young palm tree which 
stood under a vilva tree. He could not get sleep but lay awake thinking. “If the earth 
should be destroyed,” thought the hare, “what i would become of me ? " Just as this 
thought came to the mind of the hare, a large fruit of the vilva tree fell on a palm leaf and 
made a noise like thunder. The hare mistook the noise for the collapse of the earth and 
took fright. “Just as I feared,” said he to himself, and took to flight to escape from the 
impending doom. On his way, another hare saw him scampering and asked him where he 
was running. "Don't ask me, friend,” said the fleeing hare; "the earth is collapsing 
and 1 am trying to escape while there is yet time.” The second hare on hearing the dread- 
ful news also took to flight. Other hares saw these two fleeing, and hearing from them 
that the earth was collapsing joined them without enquiring about details. Thus all the 
hares of the forest started running, no one knew where, to get away from the end of the 
world. 

A herd of deer saw the hares and, hearing from them that the earth was collapsing 
joined them. Soon buffaloes, rhinoceroses, tigers, elephants, in short all the animals of 
the forest were in full flight, all crying that the earth was collapsing. 

Now they came near the home of the lion that was the Bodhisatva and, when he 
heard them crying aloud that the earth was collapsing, he looked about him and saw there 
was nothing wrong with the earth. “Surely,” thought he, “it must be some noise which 
was misunderstood by them. If I don't make an effort and stop them, all these foolish 
animals will perish.” 

So he went to the middle of the forest and roared three times. This frightened the 
beasts all the more but they stopped running and took cover. Then the lion went to them 
and asked them why they were running. The elephants answered him : “The earth is 
collapsing.” “Who saw the collapse of the earth ?” he asked again. "The tigers,” said 
the elephants. The Bodhisatva asked the tigers, and they said that the rhinoceroses 
knew all about it. The rhinoceroses, however, did not happen to know, and referred him 
to the wild oxen. The wild oxen were no wiser. Nor did the buffaloes, elks, boars and 
deer see the collapse of the earth. At last the Bodhisatva came to the hares and on enquiry, 
found out the hare that had started the flight. “Did you see the earth collapsing ?” he 



JATAKA TALES 


I Si 

asked the hare. "Yes, my lord,” said the hare still trembling with fear. “I saw it mvself 
in the palmgrove and heard the sound of its collapse.” 

The Bodhisatva now asked the animals to remain where they were and took the hare 
to the palmgrove. There he inspected the place pointed out by the hare, saw the palm tree 
and the fruit of the vilva tree and guessed the cause of the noise aright. Then he came back 
to the beasts and told them the whole story. 

The animals went away to their homes much relieved, and praised the wisdom of 
the Bodhisatva. 

Bodhisatva as a White Elephant 

• In a valley in the Himalayas there was a beautiful lake. Around the lake were seven 
thickets of flowers and plants, and beyond the thickets seven mountains, of which Golden 
Mountain was the last and the highest. In Golden Mountain was a large cave called Golden 
Cave in which lived a herd of eight thousand elephants with the Bodhisatva as the leader. 
He was pure white in colour, stood eighty-eight hands high and was a hundred and twenty 
hands in length. He had a silvery trunk and six tusks of different hues. His name was 
Chadanta. 

Chadanta had two wives, Chullasubhadha and Mahasubhadha of whom the former 
was jealous of the latter. One day while the white elephant, with Ids two wives standing 
on either side, was browsing in a grove of Sal trees he shook a flower-laden bough with 
his trunk and it happened that the flowers fell on Mahasubhadha and the twigs and red 
ants on Chullasubhadha. The latter took it to heart and said to herself : "He throws 
dead leaves, twigs and red ants over me and fragrant flowers over the wife who is dear 
to him.” 

On another occasion, when the elephants were disparting themselves under a Banyan 
tree that stood in the lake, one of the elephants found a beautiful lotus and gave it to the 
Bodhisatva, who presented it to Mahasubhadha. Chullasubhadha could not bear this 
slight and decided to avenge herself. So one day when the Bodhisatva entertained some 
holy men, Chullasubhadha also gave them food and secretly prayed that she should be 
bom as the daughter of King Madha. Shortly after this she died and was bom as the 
daughter of Madha. She grew into a beautiful maiden and was given in marriage to the 
king of Benares. This king was very fond of his bride and one day, she told him that she 
had a boon to beg of him. The king said he would do anything for her. and the queen 
asked him to send for all the hunters in the kingdom. This was done, and when the hunters 
came, the queen selected a man named Sonuttara of great size and fierce look for the work 
she had in view. She called him privately and told him : "There is a white elephant with 
six tusks inhabiting the woods near a lake in the Himalayas and you should go and bring 
me his tusks. Great will be your reward if you do this.” 

The hunter agreed to do her bidding, and the queen equipped him with all the tools, 
provisions and followers necessary for crossing the seven mountains and capturing the 
elephant . Sonuttara set forth with an army of hunters towards the forests of the Himalayas. 
But all his men perished on the way, and he alone reached the seven mountains. The 
mountains were high and the forests were thick, and it took Sonuttara seven years, seven 
months and seven days to reach the lake. At last he reached the lake, saw the elephant 
herd and noted the place where the white elephant browsed. As the elephant went back 
in the evening, Sonuttara dug a pit at the place where he had browsed, covered the mouth 
of the pit with grass and leaves and hid himself in a tree. Next day, the white elephant 



x 82 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


came and fell in the pit and Sonuttara wounded him with arrows. Chadanta trumpeted 
in agony and the herd ran away in fear. 

When the elephants ran away from the place, Sonuttara came down from the tree, 
and the Bodhisatva asked him why he wanted to kill him. “Because,” said the hunter, 
“the queen of Benares wants your tusks.” Now the Bodhisatva understood who the 
queen of Benares was and why she wanted to kill him. But he did not resent it ; on the 
contrary, he asked the hunter to cut his tusks as soon as he could. Sonuttara, however, 
found it difficult to reach his tusks because of the great height of the Bodhisatva. So the 
Bodhisatva allowed him to climb up his trunk and cut his tusks. But the tusks of the 
Bodhisatva were hard as iron and Sonuttara could not cut them. So, the Bodhisatva, 
suffering immense pain, took the saw from the hunter's hand and sawed his tusks with 
his own trunk, and gave them to him. After this, he collapsed in a pool of blood and 
died. 

Sonuttara took the tusks to the queen of Benares and narrated to her the story of 
Bodhisatva's death. When the queen beheld the tusks and heard the hunter’s story, the 
memory of the happy days she had spent with her lord came to her mind. It broke her 
heart, and she died on the same day. 

Bodhisatva as a Pkjest 

Long long ago, when Yasapani was king of Benares, the Bodhisatva was his family 
priest. The king had a minister named Kalaka who took bribes and gave the king evil 
counsel. 

One day, as the Bodhisatva was going to the palace to pay homage to the long, 
he saw, on his way, a man wailing and beating his breast. The Bodhisatva asked why he 
was in such a state of despair, and was told by the man that he had been ruined on account 
of Kalaka’s giving unfair judgment against him. He heard the man’s case and, finding 
that he had been unfairly dealt with, took him to the court of law. Here the Bodhisatva 
set aside the judgment of Kalaka, heard the case again and gave fair verdict. There were 
many people in the court and they applauded the Bodhisatva. The sound of their applause 
was so loud that the king in his palace heard it and he enquired of his attendants about the 
cause of the commotion. They told him that the Bodhisatva had judged a case fairly 
which had been wrongly judged by Kalaka. On hearing this, the king sent for the Bodhi- 
satva and made him a judge. 

Kalaka now became jealous of the Bodhisatva and plotted his ruin. He told the 
king that the Bodhisatva was more popular than the sovereign and hence a danger to the 
throne, and in proof thereof he showed to the king how a large number of people followed 
him wherever he went. The king saw the multitude that followed the Bodhisatva wherever 
he went and became alarmed. Hence he asked the minister how he could get rid of the 
Bodhisatva. “I want an excuse to put him to death,” said the king. Then Kalaka told 
the king to ask the Bodhisatva to do some impossible task and kill him for not doing it. 
The king saw that this was a good plan and sent for the Bodhisatva. When he came the 
king told him : “Wise sir, we are tired of our old garden ; now we crave for a new one 
and wish to walk in it to-morrow. If you cannot make it you must die.” 

Now, as is well known, it takes years to make a garden with trees, flower-lawns and 
water courses, and the Bodhisatva reflected, and understood that Kalaka had instigated the 
king to speak to him in this manner. But he knew it was no use resenting a royal order and 
hence he said : "If I can, my lord, I shall make it.” Saying this he went his way. 



JATAKA TALES 


183 

That night while the Bodhisatva lay in his bed thinking, Sakra appeared before him 
and asked him why he lay thinking in his bed. The Bodhisatva told him of the kings' 
command. "Wise sir,” said Sakra, "you may sleep in comfort. I will make the garden 
for you." Sakra, accordingly made the garden and when the king woke up in the morning, 
lo I the garden was ready for him to walk in, complete with trees, flower-lawns ami 
fountains. 

The king now sent for Kalaka, and told him, when he came, that the Bodhisatva had 
done the impossible. "Did I not tell Your Majesty," said the cunning minister, "that he 
is dangerous ? If he can make a garden in one night, he can surely dethrone a monarch in 
a day ! " The king was now all the more alarmed, and on the advice of Kalaka again sent 
for the Bodhisatva. When the latter came, the king asked him to make a lake possessed 
of the seven precious stones. The Bodhisatva replied that he would, if he could, and then 
went his way. That night Sakra appeared before him, and made the lake ; it* was even 
more beautiful than the king desired. 

Y^sapani next asked the Bodhisatva to build a palace to go with the lake and the 
-park. Ihis was also done by Sakra, when the king asked his priest to make a jewel fit to 
go with the palace. 

Sakra wade the jewel for the Bodhisatva and the latter presented it to the king. 
The king, as sual, sent for Kalaka. But when he came this time Yasapani did not consult 
him about ihe next step to be taken, but asked his attendants to put him to death. This 
was speedily done by the attendants and the people. 

After this, the king reigned peacefully and trusted the Bodhisatva for a loyal servant 
and true friend. 


Bodhisatva as a Monkey 


Once upon a time, a herd of eight thousand monkeys lived on a huge mango tree 
that stood on a bank of the Ganges in a forest of the Himalayas. The Bodhisatva was the 
leader of the monkeys, and he protected the herd from all harm. 

Now the fruits of the mango tree on which the monkeys lived were sweeter than all 
other fruits in the world. But one branch of the tree overhung the stream, and the 
Bodhisatva thought that if some of the mangoes should fall in the river, they might drift 
down and be seen by some one who might come in seaicb of the tree and do the monkeys 
harm. So he ordered the monkeys to strip that branch bare and pluck all the fruits on it. 
Tile monkeys did as they were told, but unfortunately one fruit remained unseen and it 
fell in the stream and dnfted down. 


The king of Benares, while he was taking a bath in the river, happened to sec the 
fruit drifting down and he took it and ate it. Seeing that it was sweeter than any mango 
lie had ever tasted, the king asked his courtiers to find out where the tree stood. They 
had a search made for the tree but could not find it anywhere in the kingdom ; thereupon, 
the king set out with a big army along the banks of the Ganges and found the tree in the 
forest. The king saw that the monkeys were eating the fruits of the tree, and desiring to 
have all the mangoes for himself, he asked his archers to shoot the monkeys. 


When the monkeys saw the archers they were alarmed, because the nearest tree 
on to which they could escape stood on the other bank of the stream, and no 
monkey was strong enough to bound over the stream. Then the Bodhisatva c ~ 
forted them by saying that he would save them all. After giving them this assurance. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA ' 


184 

he jumped into the stream and, quick as thought, swam over to the other bank before any 
archer could shoot hini. He then made a calculation as to the width of the stream, cut a 
long bamboo pole, tied one end of it to his waist, and, fastening the other end to a tree 
jumped towards the mango tree. But alas ! the bamboo was short by the length of the 
body of the Bodhisatva and he could just catch a branch of the mango tree but not alight 
on it. He, however, asked the monkeys to escape as fast as they could over his own body 
and the bamboo pole, and all the monkeys escaped. But the last monkey was a wicked 
one who was jealous of Bodhisatva’s leadership, and as he escaped over the body of his 
leader smote him and broke his spine. The Bodhisatva, already exhausted by the weight 
of the stream of monkeys that had passed over his body, could hardly sustain this blow and 
remained suspended between the trees, on the point of death. 

The king of Benares saw all that had happened and took pity on the Bodhisatva. 
He ordered his men to climb the tree, and bring the monkey to him. When the monkey 
was brought to him, the king spoke kindly to him and had his body cleaned, washed and 
dressed. But with all the efforts of the king to restore him to health, the Bodhisatva died 
on the same day. 

RESULT OF NOT HEEDING BODHISATVA’S WARNING 

A Brahmin who lived in a village, knew the charm called Vedabha, and the 
Bodhisatva was his pupil. Now, a person who knew this charm could, by repeating it on a 
certain auspicious conjunction of the planets, receive from the sky a shower of the Seven 
Things of Price — gold, silver, pearl, coral, catseye, ruby and diamond. 

One day, the Brahmin started on a journey to the city of Chedi, and took the 
Bodhisatva with him as his companion. While they were travelling through a jungle they 
fell among a gang of five hundred robbers who bound the Brahmin by ropes and asked the 
Bodhisatva to go home and bring their ransom. 

Now, it happened that on this day there was the auspicious conjunction of the 
planets, favourable for repeating the charm Vedabha, and the Bodhisatva knew this. 
But he warned his master against repeating the charm. "For,” said the Bodhisatva, 
"if you do this, evil will come upon the robbers and you". The Bodhisatva, although he 
was only the pupil of the Brahmin, knew much more than his master. 

After giving the above advice to his master, the Bodhisatva went away to the village 
to bring the ransom. But as soon as he had departed, the Brahmin thought to himself : 
“Why should I wait for my liberty till the arrival of my pupil when I can get all the money 
I want from the sky ? No, I will repeat the charm, receive the shower of wealth, and pay 
up the ransom.” Then he repeated the charm and a shower of the Seven Things of Price 
fell from the sky. The robbers who beheld this wonder were much delighted. They col- 
lected in baskets all the wealth they cared to have, and proceeded on their way home. The 
Brahmin, not knowing what else to do, followed them. They had not gone far when a 
second gang of five hundred robbers fell upon them and demanded booty. "If you want 
booty,” said the leader of the first gang, "please get hold of the Brahmin who is following 
us. He can call forth a shower of wealth from the sky. In fact all the wealth we have 
got was given to us by the Brahmin.” Hearing this, the second gang allowed the first 
to go with their booty, and caught hold of the Brahmin. "Give us booty,” said they to 
him. But the Brahmin told them that the shower of precious things could be obtained 
only on an auspicious conjunction of stars and that this would next happen after a year. 

"Rogue,” said the robbers, "you enriched those robbers within an hour and want 



PLATE XCIII 







PLATE XCIV 



CM TVSLV MELTING HIS 1 CTO HU WIIC 
1 1 .1 > .hi. Madras Museum, Photo: Muste Gunnel) 


463 THU MUSIC \L LNTLRTAIXMLNT IS Till. PALACI 
(Amraiati. Madras Museum. Photo India Office) 






PLATE XCV 



f: isasnw wsfw 

H&amtJmisw 

i! famwma& 




THE J\1X SCIIOL.XR W.V UH\SI>ll.\ SI I ?1 
(1 rod Jim Uimjlutfs b\ Dr. Voti (luiklnl 



PLATE XCVI 


TRISAI.A IN HER PAUCF 
(From / a Pcmfiire Indiemit b\ i Stchoukine) 



MOVEMENT OF THE FOLTbS 
(From Jam Miniatures by Dr. Met) Cbai'dia) 




JATAKA TALES 


i8 : 


us to wait for a year.’* So saying they laid violent hands on him and did him to death. 
They .then pursued and overtook the first gang, killed all of them and took possession of 
the booty. But now a violent quarrel broke out among the second gang of robbers for the 
spoils, and all of them, except two, were killed. The two survivors decided to divide 
the treasure equally between them. But by now they were hungry, and one of them went to 
a village to buy food while the other guarded the treasure. As soon as the former had 
departed, the other robber thought that it would be better for him to have all the treasure, 
and decided to kill his partner on his return. But the one who went for food also 
thought in a similar manner and decided to kill the one who stood guard over the 
treasure ; so, after purchasing food for two he ate his own share, mixed poison m the 
remainder and brought it to his partner. But as soon as he came near the treasure, he 
was killed by the robber who guarded the treasure, who, on eating the poisoned food, 
himself died on the spot. 

When the Bodhisatva returned with the ransom, he did not find his master or the 
robbe/« at the appointed place. He saw, instead, treasure lying strewn about the place 
and understood that his teacher, heedless of his warning, had repeated the charm and 
received tb** shower of wealth from the sky. He then started on the trail of the robbers 
and came upon the dead body of his master. He cremated it, and again went in search 
of the robbers. Presently, he came to the place where the robbers had killed themselves ; 
but not finding the treasure there, he looked for survivors, and following the footprints 
of the two who had earned away the treasure, he finally reached the place where the two 
robbers had met with death, and saw the treasure. 

“Thus,’' mused the Bodhisatva, “did all the robbers and my master perish due 
to not paying heed to my advice.” He then removed the treasure to his house and lived 
happily till the end of his life. 



CHAPTER XVI 


JAINISM 

J AINISM, like Buddhism, was inspired by the prevailing discontent against Brahininism. 
The ritual and sacrifices enjoined by the Brahmanas gave the Brahmins a position of 
superiority which the Kshatriyas were not inclined to tolerate. As the martial and 
ruling classes, they found the claims of the Brahmins difficult to understand, but as long as 
the infallibility of the Vedas was recognized, the Brahmins, as the sole custodians, interpre- 
ters and students of the Vedas had to be accepted as the better caste. Hence the Kshatriya 
rebels of East India rejected the authority of the Vedas which naturally, placed them 
outside the pale of Hinduism. 


HISTORY 

Vardhamana, called Mahavira, the founder of Jainism was of royal birth. He 
was the second son of Siddhartha, a Kshatriya chieftain of the Republic of Vaisali in Videha 
(Bihar). He was bom in the township of Besarh, identified as the village of the same name 
situated near Patna. The exact date of his birth is a disputed point, the Swetambaras 
(one of the major sects among the Jains) believing that he was bom in 599 B.C. and the 
Digambaras (the rival sect) that he was bom 60 years earlier. 

Vardhamana, from a very early age, showed ascetic leanings, and was attracted to a 
religious order founded by Parsvanatha who did not approve of Brahminical practices 
and is revered by the Jains as a Tirthankara (ford-finder of whom more persently) and the 
forerunner of Mahavira. According to the Swetambara tradition Vardhamana, not wishing 
to offend the susceptibilities of his parents, married and settled down as a house-holder 
and did not renounce the world till the death of his parents ; the Digambaras, however, 
maintain that from the very start he followed the higher call and remained a celibate. 

Anyway, both are agreed that he gave up the world at the age of thirty and joined 
the order of Parsvanatha's mendicants. But a monastic life did not hold him long. He 
found the discipline of the monks too lax, and left them, after a year, to wander alone. 
In his twelve years of wandering life he never stayed in a village for more than one night. 

In the thirteenth year, Vardhamana took up his abode in a place called Jrimbhaka- 
grama near Parsvanatha hills. Here he attained Kevala Jnana or omniscience and came 
to be known as Jina or the Conqueror (of Karma), and the Jains take their name from this 
title of Mahavira. He now assumed the role of the teacher. The gist of Mahavira 's teaching 
is that birth counts for little, and caste for less ; that the object of life is liberation from 
the fetters of Karma through right living and the practice of asceticism ; that the greatest 
sin is causing injury to living beings. 

Although these principles did not appeal greatly to the warlike Kshatriyas, Mahavira’s 
rejection of the authority of the Vedas and the superiority of the Brahmins did find favour 
with them. He himself, as a Kshatriya, had extensive social connections among the ruling 
classes, and these naturally were attracted by the teachings of their kinsman. Within 
a short period Mahavira collected a large number of disciples, both men and women, and 
counted as his followers the kings of Magadha, Prayaga, Videha, Kausambi, Champapuri, 
and many nobles and petty chiefs. 

Thirty years Mahavira spent in teaching the Jain religion. In his seventy- 
second year, while staying in Pavapuri (Patna) as the guest of king Hastipala, the 

1 86 



JAINISM 


IS 7 

great ascetic of India passed away 'all alone, and cut asunder the tics of birth, old ace 
and death/ b 


Mahavira had two important disciples, Gosala and Gautama Indrabhuti. The former 
lived with him for six years, but struck out an independent line of his own, rejected the 
doctrines of his master, and founded a sect of absolute fatalists who did not long survive 
him. Gautama, on the other hand, w'as a staunch and trusted disciple, and on him fell 
the leadership of the community after Mahavira's Nirvana. His only shortcoming that 
delayed his attainment of omniscience was his attachment to his master. He got over it 
on the night of Mahavira's decease, the Master having sent him away on the fateful night. 
After Mahavira’s death he became a Kevalin (omniscient being) and is revered by the Jains 
as an Arhat, next in rank to a Tirthankara. 

Suddharma was also an important disciple of Mahavira but he obtained omniscience 
after Gautama. He was a Brahmin converted by Mahavira and he was the head of the 
community after Gautama’s death. All the present Jain monks consider themselves the 
spiritual descendents of Suddharma. During Mahavira’s ministry he had divided the 
order under different leaders, and only the community of five hundred monks under 
Suddharma kept up the continuity, the others having perished by the lapse of time. 

Mahavira divided the whole Jain community into four Tirthas or orders : Monks, 
nuns, laymen and laywomen. The discipline for Die last two was, for obvious reasons, 
less strict and they supported the monks and nuns to whom all occupations were prohibited. 
These lived on the charity of laymen and laywomen, studiously working out their salvation 
through a wandering or monastic life. Monks who attained the higher knowledge were 
permitted to commit religious suicide by starvation, but indiscriminate suicide was 
disallowed. 


Jainism obtained a very strong foothold in East India and the great Mauryan 
Emperor Chandragupta was converted to the faith. During the closing years of this 
monarch's life a devastating famine overtook his kingdom and the large body of Jain monks 
proved too great a burden for the starving population to support. Hence under the leader- 
ship of Chandragupta, an exodus of Jain monks to South India took place, and these 
monks spread the faith in the South, and Shravana Belgola in Mysore became a 
famous centre of Jainism. 


By the conversion of Samprati, grandson of Asoka, Jainism obtained a powerful 
ally. Samprati, like his illustrious grandfather, was a missionary at heart, and did for 
Jainism what Asoka did for Buddhism. Under his able guidance Jainism spread all over 
India and got a foothold even in Afghanistan. Central and Western India became strong- 
holds of Jainism, and under Samprati this religion obtained even greater popularity than 
Budhism. Samprati's indiscriminate charity also brought in corruption in the monasteries, 
and some of the monks, far from pursuing an ascetic course of life, started enjoying the 
good things of life. The old monk Hahagiri, brought up m the sterner earlier school 
remonstrated with the easy going monks ; but they turned a deaf ear and the old puritan 
committed suicide. 


Jainism became the state religion of Gujarat under king Ku g a ™P^; nrohfhM 
verted to the faith by the celebrated Jain scholar Hemachandra. Kumarapala prohibited 
the killing of animals in his kingdom, and built several Jam temples. 

Durine the Hindu revival that drove Buddhism out of India, Jainism too fell 
on evil days! But by making several concessions to Brahrmnism it escaped the fate 



JAINISM 


189 

There are several sects among the Jains but the most important division is as Suct- 
ambaras (white clad) and Digambaras (sky clad). The division appears to have persisted 
from the time of Parsvanatha himself, but the personality and prestige of the earlier leaders 
prevented it from developing into a serious schism. Towards the close of the first century 
of the Christian era, the dissenting Digambaras, however, hived off from the main 
body. 

The differences in belief between the two sects, though many, are not fundamental. 
The main dispute is about clothes. The Digambaras believe that complete emancipation 
is possible only in a state of absolute nudity ; that as long as even a piece of white cloth 
hangs from the loins of a saint, he cannot obtain liberation since his attachment to that 
piece of cloth pulls his Jiva down to the meshes of Karma ; besides, wearing of clothes 
implies consciousness of shame, and a sinner alone has the need to be ashamed of himself. 
The Swetambaras, on the other hand, believe that white robes do not liinder liberation, 
and may be worn even by the strictest ascetic. 

From these differing standpoints the two sects have written the history of the com- 
munity and the biography of their leaders agreeable to their own pet notions, each account 
differing from the other. The Digambaras, for instance, maintain that Mahavira gave up 
clothes on his initiation, the Swetambaras that he did not: similarly, the Digambaras 
maintain that the Tirthankaras should be represented in art without clothes whereas the 
Swetambaras think it proper that they should be provided with loin cloths. The dispute 
about Mahavira’s marriage has already been noticed. 


An important feature of Jainism is its extreme view on Ahimsa or non-killing. Injury 
to living beings (according to Jains, the vegetable kingdom and dead matter arc not without 
life) is to be avoided at all costs ; it is not intentional killing alone that leads to sin but 
even inadvertent destruction of life. The Jain view of metempsychosis includes a pos- 
sibility of edified mortals and even gods assuming forms in the animal or vegetable kingdom, 
and as such destruction of animals, insects, garlic and pests might lead to injury to one’s 
own superiors and is to be avoided. It is difficult to understand how a religion that rose 
among the warlike Kshatriyas carne to attach so much importance to non-killing. It was 
probably due to the exaggerated importance attached to Aliimsa that Jainism fell out of 
favour among the Kshatriyas. 

The absolute prohibition of killing prevented the generality of the population of 
the country, engaged in various occupations, from becoming Jains. Agriculture needs 
ploughing which destroys earthworms; fishermen could not very well become Jains, nor 
could .butchers. Hence it was among the business communities that Jainism found ia\ our, 
and at present it remains mainly a religion of bankers, jewellers, clerks and money lenders. 


The fear of destroying life is so deeprooted among Jains that they would not eat 
after nightfall lest in the dark they should swallow insects with the meal. A Jam monk 
covers his mouth with a mask lest flies be inadvertently trapped in an open mouth, flic 
lesser a man walks about, the better for his soul, since he is likely to tread upon lesser number 
of insects. Hence the greatest virtue is to sit still and fast. 


Legends of Mahavira 

As in the case ot the Buddha, many legends have raUretcd round the p^^Uy 
of Mahavira His mother Trisala, also called Pnyakanm, had, pnor to his birth, sixteen 
(the Swetambaras say fourteen) auspicious dreams foretelling the greatness of the coming 
child. 



i88 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


of Buddhism ; for though driven out of eastern India, its home. Jainism still flourished in 
Western India where the majority of Jains are found at present. The classes that follow 
this persuasion now are not kings and nobles, but the trading castes. Though their nume- 
rical strength, compared to the Hindu population, is negligible, their influence, because of 
their wealth and commercial acumen is quite considerable. A peculiarity of present-day 
Jains is that they allow paid Brahmins to officiate as priests in domestic worship although 
Brahmins are excluded from temple worship. It was probably by making this important 
concession that Jains managed to escape annihilation. Jainism did not, however, make 
any headway in countries other than India, though we have some record of Jain 
missionary activities outside India under Samprati. 

Jain Beliefs 

The Jains, like the Buddhists, believe that life is essentially evil and the object of life 
is deliverance. But while the Buddhists maintain that the path to deliverance is through 
right action, the Jains believe that liberation is best brought about by asceticism and 
inaction. 

Jains do not believe in a Creator of the Universe. Creation implies a desire to create 
and a desire denotes something wanting and implies imperfection. The perfect being is 
without desire or activity, and as such a God who creates or demands obedience or praise 
from man has no place in Jain theology. The universe is self-existent and is indestructible. 
There are gods, no doubt, but they are little better than humans ; we will have to notice 
them presently. 

The philosophy of Jainism draws its inspiration mainly from the atheistic Sankhya 
system.* According to this ancient philosophic system of the Hindus, Jivas (souls) and 
Ajiva (non-soul) are the only reals in the universe. The Jains believe in Jivas as the 
quiescent finer reals, and in Ajiva as the grosser real. Jivas are numberless, each with an 
entity of its own. When a Jiva gets fettered by matter, a division of Ajiva, it is led to 
Karma or activity (or in common parlance, life). 

How the Jiva gets fettered by Ajiva without the intervention of a third cause, is 
not clearly explained. Jains are aware of this flaw in their system, but are not perturbed 
by it. For the great thing is not to find out why the Jiva gets fettered, but to liberate it. 
The fact of the bondage is taken as self-evident and as such the main thing is to cut the 
bond. The man whose house is on fire does not waste his time enquiring how the house 
caught fire but proceeds straight away to put out the fire. 

The Jains are masters of detail and have studied, analysed, divided and classified 
Jivas and the numerous components of Ajiva ; a detailed account of the metaphysics of 
the Jains, which is an exact science, cannot possibly be given in this work. 

Like the Buddhists and Hindus, the Jains attach great importance to Karma, the 
law that rules all life. Transmigration of souls is believed in as a corollary of Karma. 
Man though, in one sense, its slave, is also master of Karina in as much as he can completely 
liberate himself from its shackles by following the Jain way of life. 

About the nature of ultimate release, the Jains differ substantially from the 
Buddhists. While the Buddhist Nirvana is complete annihilation or something very 
near it, the liberated Jiva, according to the Jains, retains its entity. It is above desire ana 
activity, serene, and never more to be lured by Ajiva into Karma. 

* For a daUiled eocouat of lystem plea*a refer to Um autLor'e book Hindu Rthpon, Cuzlo mi and Mannttt. 



JAINISM 


189 

There are several sects among the Jains but the most important division is as Swct- 
ambaras (white clad) and Digambaras (sky clad). The division appears to have persisted 
from the time of Parsvanatha himself, but the personality and prestige of the earlier leaders 
prevented it from developing into a serious schism. Towards the close of the first century 
of the Christian era, the dissenting Digambaras, however, hived off from the mam 
body. 

The differences in belief between the two sects, though many, are not fundamental. 
The main dispute is about clothes. The Digambaras believe that complete emancipation 
is possible only in a state of absolute nudity ; that as long as even a piece of white cloth 
hangs from the loins of a saint, he cannot obtain liberation since his attachment to that 
piece of cloth pulls his Jiva down to the meshes of Karma ; besides, wearing of clothes 
implies consciousness of shame, and a sinner alone has the need to be ashamed of himself. 
The Swetambaras, on tire other hand, believe that white robes do not hinder liberation, 
and may be worn even by the strictest ascetic. 

From these differing standpoints the two sects have written the history of the com- 
munity and the biography of their leaders agreeable to their own pet notions, each account 
differing from the other. The Digambaras, for instance, maintain that JIahavira gave up 
clothes on his initiation, the Swetambaras that he did not : similarly, the Digambaras 
maintain that the Tirthankaras should be represented in art without clothes whereas the 
Swetambaras think it proper that they should be provided with loin cloths. The dispute 
about Mahavira's marriage has already been noticed. 


An important feature of Jainism is its extreme view on Ahimsa or non-killing. Injury 
to living beings (according to Jains, the vegetable kingdom and dead matter are not without 
life) is to bo avoided at all costs ; it is not intentional lolling alone that leads to sin but 
even inadvertent destruction of life. The Jain view of metempsychosis includes a pos- 
sibility of edified mortals and even gods assuming forms in the animal or vegetable kingdom, 
and as such destruction of animals, insects, garlic and pests might lead to injury to one's 
own superiors and is to be avoided. It is difficult to understand how a religion that rose 
among the warlike Kshatriyas came to attach so much importance to non-killing. It was 
probably due to the exaggerated importance attached to Ahimsa that Jainism fell out of 
favour among the Kshatriyas. 

The absolute prohibition ot killing prevented the generality of the population of 
the country, engaged in various occupations, from becoming Jains. Agriculture needs 
ploughing which destroys earthworms; fishermen could not very well become Jains, nor 
could.butchers. Hence it w f as among the business communities that Jainism found favour, 
and at present it remains mainly a religion of bankers, jewellers, clerks and money lenders. 


The fear of destroying life is so deeprooted among Jains that they would not cat 
after nightfall lest in the dark they should swallow insects with the meal. A Jam n \°nk 
covers his mouth with a mask lest flics be inadvertently trapped in an open mouth, Hie 
lesser a man walks about, Die better for his soul, since he is likely to tread upon lesser number 
of insects. Hence the greatest virtue is to sit still and fast. 


Legends of Mahavira 


As in the case of the Bnddhn. many legends have collected ronnd the^nJdy 
of Mahavira. His mother Trisala. also called PnyakanmhadpiTOrto ii.sbinh mtecn 
(the Swetambaras sav fourteen) auspicious dreams foretelling the greatness of the coming 
child. 1 



igo 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


In the first dream Trisala saw a white elephant, in the second a white bull, in the third 
a white lion leaping. In the fourth dream she had a vision of Sri, the goddess of wealth, 
in the fifth she smelt the fragrance of Mandara flowers, and in the sixth saw the full moon 
shedding its silvery beams all over the universe. In the seventh dream Trisala saw the 
sun, radiant and red. 

There is some dispute between the Swetambaras and the Digambaras about the 
eighth dream. The latter believe, she saw a pair of sporting fish indicating, of course, 
happiness, while the former contend that it was Indra’s banner on a golden pole that the 
queen saw. 

In the ninth dream she saw a golden pitcher according to the Swetambaras and two 
pitchers according to the Digambaras. In the tenth dream Trisala had the vision of a lotus 
lake filled with flowers and resounding with the hum of bees and beetles. In the eleventh 
she saw the celestial milk ocean and in the twelfth a celestial palace inhabited by musical 
gods. The thirteenth dream was about a huge vase piled with precious stones ; the vase 
was as high as Mount Meru. The fourteenth dream was about a clear, beautiful conflagra- 
tion fed by clarified butter. 

The Digambaras hold that Trisala also dreamt of a throne of rubies and diamonds, 
and of a celestial king who deigned to rule on the terrestrial plane. Each sect has its own 
pet interpretations of these dreams. 

Trisala revealed these dreams to her husband, and the wise men whom the latter 
consulted foretold the birth of either a great emperor or a Tirthankara. It will be remem- 
bered that a similar prophesy foretold the birth of the Buddha, and his father took elaborate 
precautions to ensure that his son should become an emperor. Vardhamana’s father did 
not, however, wish to interrupt his son's calling and allowed him to find his own vocation. 

A legend tells us that Vardhamana was not actually conceived by Trisala but by 
Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhadeva, and the gods, to prevent the child’s 
birth in "the miserable Brahmin household," transferred the embryo to the womb of the 
Kshatriya lady Trisala. The legend shows the feeling that existed between the Brahmins 
and the Kshatriyas at the time, and indicates that Trisala was probably Vardhamana’s 
stepmother. 

On the twelfth day of the birth the naming ceremony took place and the child was 
named Vardhamana {increasing), for "from the day the embryo was placed in Trisala’s 
womb, the wealth of the family in gold, silver, com, jewels, pearls and precious stones 
increased," 

The child grew up into a handsome lad of great strength of body and mind. He 
performed prodigious feats of strength. One day, for instance, when Vardhamana with 
some boys was playing in his father's garden, a mad elephant charged on the lads. The 
frightened young men ran for life, but Vardhamana caught the beast by its trunk, gave it a 
vigorous shake up, ran up its head, and rode on its back. On another occasion when he 
was again playing in the garden, a god, to test the boy’s strength of mind, lifted Vardham- 
ana high up in the air, but the young man, far from getting frightened, tore the hair of the 
god and beat him so mercilessly that he was glad to be rid of his obstreperous burden. 
On this, the other gods who were watching the scene called the boy Mahavira or great hero 
because he conquered the god. 

Jains vividly describe the scene of Mahavira’s enlightenment. As the Bodhi tree 
is associated with the Buddha's enlightenment, the Asoka tree is associated with Mahavira’s 



JAINISM 


igi 


attainment of omniscience. His initiation took place under this tree and the gods them- 
selves attended the ceremony. Contemptuous of bodily pain Mahavira tore off his hair 
instead of shaving it, a penance Jain nuns and monks even now imitate on initiation. 
Indra, king of the gods, presented him a robe, but the Digambaras who believe that 
Mahavira was unclad, doubt the authenticity of this legend. 

Anyway, both the sects are agreed that most of the gods of the Jain pantheon 
attended the supreme moment of his enlightenment. Mahavira fasted for two and half 
days under an Asoka tree, not even taking water, and at the end of the fast, adoring gods 
and men carried him in a beautiful palanquin to a park where a five tiered throne had been 
constructed for him. Here he stripped himself of all clothes and the god Vaisravana caught 
them as he flung them to the ground from the lofty throne. 

Many stories are told of Mahavira's absolute indifference to worldly possessions 
and his insensibility to physical pain. At the time of his enlightenment he had given up 
all his possessions in charity but a Brahmin named Somadatta reminded him that he had 
received nothing from him. Mahavira then had only the robe Indra had given left with 
him, and he cut the robe into two and gave one portion to the Brahmin. The Brahmin 
took the robe to a tailor who said that it would be necessary to get the other half to make a 
decent garment of it. Somadatta did not wish to ask, for shame, for the last bit of Maha- 
vira's worldly possession, so he decided to steal it. While the ascetic was practising 
penances on a thorny shrub, Somadatta sneaked in, and as the robe slipped off Mahavira's 
loins by accident, he stole the robe and made off with it. But the Brahmin, during the 
course of thieving, hurt his hand on the thorns. Mahavira did not notice the theft immedi- 
ately because of his absorption in meditation, but came to know of it later when all that he 
did was to make a parable out of it, telling his disciples how thorny the road to worldly 
life was but how great the deliverance from the thorny path. 


On one occasion when Mahavira was meditating in a field, some mocking herdsmen, 
in rough sport, drove nails into his ears and scorched his feet, but the saint continued his 
meditations without in the least being disturbed by the cruel activities of the herdsmen. 

Again, once while the ascetic was sitting in meditation on the outskirts of a village 
called Kumaragrama, a farmer who passed by, saw the idler and wished to ^ve him some 
work. His bullocks were grazing nearby and the fanner asked Mahavira to tend the n 
till his return. The farmer received no reply but took it for granted that lus orders wo 
be carried out. He went away but, on return after some time did not find his b ^ oc * s ; 
He asked his newly employed assistant what had happened to them but co °*V y 

his deep breath as a reply. Thinking it useless to ask the man anything „ ’ 

he set out in search of his cattle but a day and night long search yielded no ► 
morning he returned again to Mahavira and found the bullocks lying dm PP ’ X . 

the meditating saint. The farmer could only attribute this to a motive , , 

steal the bullocks. He started screwing Mahavira s neck, but fortunately god Indra vi 
had been watching the scene from the very start intervened and s ^ v rnn ctantlv oro- 

this time onwards Indra assumed the role of Mahavira s bodyguard y P 

tected him and thus saved mankind from similar sacrilege. 

Legends have also collected round the death scene of en^continumisly 
of the world were present at the death bed. The dying man P reac ^^ h f“ ‘ ^Scent 
for six days. On the seventh he ascended a diamond throne 

hall for the purpose. The hall and the throne were Ruminated by sup^aturaL^hg ^ 
All night he preached the last sermon, and towards dawn all his 



XQ 2 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


died alone and unseen by any one. Even his own disciples, though present, did not see 
him die. When the sleeping audience woke up at dawn they saw what had happened. 
Since the light of the world was gone, they decided to illuminate all the buildings and parks 
ol the city with torch and wick lights ; thus the Jain account of the origin of the well-known 
Indian Festival of Lights (Divali). 

The Digambaras, as the followers of the more austere tradition, believe that there 
was no king, no hall, no diamond throne, no supernatural light, not even a humble audience 
at the time of Mahavira's Nirvana, but he died all alone, unseen by any one, undisturbed 
by anything. 

Mahavira’s previous births have also been enumerated. He was, among other 
things, a carpenter, a monk, a king for several rebirths, a lion and a god. His birth as 
Mahavira was the twenty-seventh and last. These birth stories, however, lack the charm 
of the Jataka Tales, and need not be given in detail here. 

The reader will not have failed to notice the similarity between the legends connected 
with the Buddha and Mahavira. Both Buddhism and Jainism have many things 
in common and the founders lived in the same century in the same province ; hence 
Mahavira was, for long, confused as the Buddha by Western scholars, and it was but lately 
that they recognized the fact that Mahavira was a historical personage, quite separate 
from the Buddha. 

Tirthankaras 

We have seen that Jains do not believe in God, but they do believe in gods and 
demons. The greatest beings are not, however, gods but Tirthankaras (literally, Ford 
Finders) or liberated souls who, while living, had also been world teachers. 

Free souls are of two kinds : The omniscient Siddhas, disembodied and in supreme 
bliss, free from Karma and the whirl of life ; and the Arhats who have obtained omniscience 
but have not yet shed the mortal coil. Below the Arhats come Acharyas or heads of orders, 
Upadhyayas or teachers, and Sadhus or simple ascetics. These three, together with the 
Arhats and Siddhas, are known as the Panchaparameshtins or five supreme ones. 

The Siddhas, then, are the greatest of souls. But all Siddhas are not Tirthankaras. 
This rare distinction belongs only to those who have attained the five kinds of knowledge* 
and have, in addition, preached and taught the Jain religion in its pure and original form. 
To have an adequate idea of the nature and stature of Tirthankaras, it is necessary for the 
reader to know something about the mythical chronology of the Jains. 

The Jains conceive time as a moving point on the circumference of an eternally 
revolving wheel. The point, obviously, has its downward and upward movements. The 
downward movement, known as Avasarpini (under the influence of a bad serpent, hence 
Sarpini) denotes a period of steady degeneration till the lowest point is reached, when the 
upward trend known as Utsarpim (under the influence of a good serpent) starts with its 
ultimate end in a blissful age. 

We are now living in the Avasarpini. The Avasarpini has six ages of progressive 

• The five lands ol knowledge are : MaU Juana or simple knowledge, gained through the senses ; (2) Snita Jnana or spccu* 
lame knowledge, mainly obtained through study and contemplation ; (j) Avadhi Jnana or intuition of past e'«nts ; this know- 
ledge i» common among celestials and dtv.la but Tare among humans ; i^hlanahparyaya Jnana ox knowledge ol the thoughts 
and feelmg3 ol others : only gilted men can attain tins high knowledge ; arid (5) Kevala J nana or omniscience ; only Artliats and 
Siddhas can attain tins supreme knowledge. 









PLATE XCVIII 



274 SIDDHARTHA AND TRISALA 375 NIRVANA 01 PAR\S\*NATH* 

(From La Peinture Indtenne by 1. Stchoukine) (From Jaw Miniature* fci bv Dr Mob Chandra) 




PLATE XCIX 





PLATE XCVIII 



SIDDHARTHA AND TRISALA 
(From la Petnture ludtenne by i Stchoukine) 


275 NIRVANA OF PARASVANATHA 
(From Jam Miniatures by by Dr. Mott Chandra) 1 





JAINISM 


^93 

degeneration : (i) Susama Susama, (2) Susama, (3} Susama Dusama, (4) Duaama Susama. 
(5) Dusama : and (6) Dusama D usama. 

The first age, as the name indicates, was a period of ‘great happiness’. This age 
lasted for four crores of Sagaropaina.* Men bom in this age were six miles in height and 
each one had two hundred and fifty-six ribs. All mothers gave birtli to twins, a boy 
and a girl, and the population of the sexes always remained equal. The twins 
were able to look after themselves from the fourth day onwards, and the parents died 
invariably on the 49th day of the birth of the twins. Ten Kalpa Vrikhsas (boon granting 
trees) supplied all the needs of men and women in this age. There was no need for work 
or for cooking, and there was no killing. The men of this age ate only one meal in four days. 
All men and women lived without religion, for there was no sin and no misery, and all passed 
on to the regions of bliss on death. 

Susama was the age of mere happiness. The height of man was reduced to four 
miles and his ribs to one hundred and twenty-eight. The twins started eating from the 
third day and their parents died on the sixty-fourth day of their birth. 

In Susama Dusama (the age of happiness and misery, the former predominating) 
sin and sorrow appeared for the first time. Degeneration set in. The height of nun 
was reduced to two miles and his ribs to sixty-four. Hunger increased and a man ate one 
meal in two days. The Kalpa Vrikshas started withering, and the need for agriculture, 
cooking and other occupations arose with their accompaniment destruction of life. In 
this age appeared the first Tirthankara, Rishabhadcva or Adinatha (First Lord) who preached 
the Jain religion, and taught men seventy useful arts, and w omen sixty-four. He introduced 
politics and statecraft, and established a kingdom. His daughter Brahmi invented the 
eighteen alphabets. 


The next age Dusama Susama (the age of misery and happiness, misery 
predominating) is interesting as it was in this period that the remaining twenty-three 
Tirthankaras lived. This age lasted one crore of crorcs of Sagaropaina minus forty-two 
thousand years. The height of man was reduced to five hundred spans and his ribs to 
thirty-two. Every one ate one meal a day. The need for religion became urgent, and 
Tirthankara after Tirthankara preached and taught. People of this ago did not alt obtain 
liberation but some were reborn in the various regions of the universe. Inc prac ice 
religion was fully established. 


Dusama (the age of evil), in which we five, is predominancy evil. The 
man is reduced to seven cubits and his ribs to sixteen. The length of tins •» , £ 

one thousand years, and it started three years after Mahavira, the tw enty-fourtl 1 irUiankara 
obtained liberation. There will be no Tirthankara in this age and Jainism itself is doomed 
to die out towards the end. 


But the worst is yet to come. For in Dusama Durama (the age of reUnion* 

will last for twenty-one thousand years, men, devoid of the saving hn *■ . ont ! 

wifi be ruled entirdy by thdr base instincts. The height of man 
rabit and his ribs to eight. Virtue will entirely disappear and no . morality will 

than sixteen years. Famines and pestilence will ravage the worl . •- . the* little 

completely disappear. Howling winds will sweep over a ^eried • \Vhendegc- 
wcak men will seek refuge in caves, ravines and in the Ganges and in - ^ ta 

* S SP W I“°*- S*sm. Paly* and Pun a am mythical lima dnriuoni i tl* ' m “-a* 

“5*2*; Mmbtr o£ year, than reorient aro « iaataati caHy asuwsoax that «=* 

Ct ? Uoa C-( their length or duration. 





JAINISM 


193 


degeneration : (1) Susaraa Susama, (2) Susama, (3) Susaraa Dusama, (4) Dusama Susama, 
(5) Dusama : and (6) Dusama Dusama. 


The first age, as the name indicates, was a period of 'great happiness'. This age 
lasted for four crorcs of Sagaropama.* Men bom in this age were six miles in height and 
each one had two hundred and fifty-six ribs. All mothers gave birth to twins, a boy 
and a girl, and the population of the sexes always remained equal. The twins 
were able to look after themselves from the fourth day onwards, and the parents died 
invariably on the 49th day of the birth of the twins. Ten Kalpa Vrikhsas (boon granting 
trees) supplied all the needs of men and women in this age. There was no need for work 
or for cooking, and there was no killing. The men of this age ate only one meal in four days. 
All men and women lived without religion, for there was no sin and no misery, and all passed 
on to the regions of bliss on death. 


Susama was the age of mere happiness. The height of man was reduced to four 
miles and his ribs to one hundred and twenty-eight. The twins started eating from the 
third day and their parents died on the sixty-fourth day of their birth. 


In Susama Dusama (the age of happiness and misery, the former predominating) 
sin and sorrow appeared for the first time. Degeneration set in. The height of man 
was reduced to two miles and his ribs to sixty-four. Hunger increased and a man ate one 
meal in two days. The Kalpa Vrikshas started withering, and the need for agriculture, 
cooking and other occupations arose with their accompaniment destruction of life. In 
this age appeared the first Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva or Adinatha (First Lord) who preached 
the Jain religion, and taught men seventy useful arts, and women sixty-four. He introduced 
politics and statecraft, and established a kingdom. His daughter Brahmi invented the 
eighteen alphabets. 


The next age Dusama Susama (the age of misery and happiness, misery 
predominating) is interesting as it was in this period that the remaining, twenty-three 
Tirthankaras lived. This age lasted one crore of crorcs of Sagaropama minus , forty-tvvo 
thousand years. The height of man was reduced to five hundred spans and his ribs to 
thirty-two. Every one ate one meal a day. The need for religion became urgent, ana 
Tirthankara after Tirthankara preached and taught. People of this age did not all obtain 
liberation but some were reborn in the various regions of the universe. The practice ot 
religion was fully established. 

. Dusama (the age of evil), in which we Uve, is predominantly evih The statme of 
man is reduced to seven cubits and his ribs to sixteen. The length of thls “Sc;s twenty- 
one thousand years, and it started three years after Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara 
obtained liberation. There will be no Tirthankara in this age and Jainism itself is doomed 
to die out towards the end. 

But the worst is yet to come. For in Dusama Dusama (the age of greater 
will last for twenty-one* thousand years, men, devoid of the saving 
will be ruled entirely by their bas£ instincts. The height of 

cubit and his ribs to eight. Virtue will entirely disappear and no morality wall 

than sixteen years. Famines and pestilence will ravage the world. Sexual ^0^^. 
completely disappear. Howling winds will sweep over a dese , ^ _ 

weak men will seek refuge in caves, ravines and in the Ganges a • cm 

* Sagaropama, Sagara, Palya and Purva are mythical tune no con- 

^sdent. The number of years these represent are so fantastically astronomic that oromaiy 
cepnon of their length or duration. 



194 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


aeration reaches its lowest point, Utsarpini, the upward trend wall start. We are told tliat 
Utsarpini will start in the month of Shravana (July- August). There will be continuous 
rain for seven days, and the scorched earth will again clothe herself in green. 

The ages of the Utsarpini are the same as those of Avasarpini but in reverse order. 
There will be twenty-four Tirthankaras in Utsarpini too. The first of these will appear 
in Dusama Susama and the remaining twenty-three in Susama. When the zenith of the 
upward course is reached in Susama Susama, Avasarpini will start again, and thus the 
mystic wheel rotates endlessly and aeons roll on aeons. 

The Tirthankaras, as we have seen, are the greatest of beings and their worship is 
recommended. But the Jains worship the Tirthankaras not because they are able to grant 
boons or favours but on the broad principle that worship of sacred persons is good for the 
soul of the worshipper. Tirthankaras are all above desires, even the desire of saving souls, 
and as such no Tirthankara can convert a sinner into a saint and send him to heaven. 
In Jainism there is no short cut to salvation. Every one must patiently and diligently 
work out one’s own liberation by penance and right living. 

The twenty-four Tirthankaras of the Avasarpini were : 

(1) Rishabhadeva : As we have seen, this sage appeared in Susama Dusama. 
His father was Nabhiraja and mother Maru Devi. Rishabha means bull 
and he was so called because his mother, when he was conceived, had a dream 
of a white bull coming towards her. He was born in Ayodhya and had a 
golden yellow complexion. His height was 500 bowshots and he lived 
8,400,000 Purva of time. He had one daughter and one hundred sons. He 
attained Nirvana on Mount Kailas in the Himalayas. His sign is the bull 

(2) Ajitanatha: This Tirthankara appeared in Dusama Susama, fifty lakhs 
of crores of Sagara after Rishabhadeva. He was like his predecessor, bom 
in Ayodhya. His father was king Jitasatru and mother yijaya Devi. His 
height was 450 bowshots and complexion yellow. He attained liberation on 
Mount Parsvanatha at the age of seventy-two lakhs of Purva of time. His 
emblem is the elephant. 

(3) Samhavanatha : Bom of Jitari and Sena in Srivasti, he was 400 bowshots 
in. height. The interval between. Ajitanatha and Sambhavanatlia was 30 
lakhs of crores of Sagara. Of golden yellow complexion, he lived for sixty 
lakhs of Purva of time and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha together 
with one thousand ascetics. His sign is the horse. 

{4) Abhinandana : Bom in Ayodhya of king Samvara and queen Siddhartlia, 
ten lakhs ot crores of Sagara after Sambhavanatha, he lived for fifty lakhs of 
Purva and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. His complexion was 
golden yellow and height 350 bowshots. His sign is the monkey. 

(5) Sumatinatha : Nine lakhs of crores of Sagara after Abhinandana, was bom 
the fifth Tirthankara in Ayodhya. His father was Icing Megharatha. A 
story is told of his mother Sumangala similar to that of Solomon's judgement 
between the two mothers who claimed the same baby. Sumatinatha was 
300 bowshots in height and lived for 40 lakhs of Purva. His complexion 
was golden yellow. His sign is the curlew. 

(6) Suparsvanatha : Bom in Kasi nine thousand crores of Sagara after his 
predecessor, his height was 200 bowshots and complexion green. His father 



JAINISM 


J 95 

Supratishta was king of Benares. His mother Prithvi suffered from leprosy 
but was cured of the fell disease prior to her illustrious son’s birth. He lived 
for 20 lakhs of Purva and obtained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha His 
sign is the Swastika. 

(7) Chandraprabha : The name indicates moonbeams. The Tirthankara’s 

mother Lakslimana in pregnancy wished to drink the moon, and for her 
satisfaction a silver plate of water in which was a reflection of the moon was 
brought to her, and she drank of it. Hence her son was named Chand- 
raprabha. His father Mahasena was king of Chandrapuri. He was bom 
900 crores of Sagara after his predecessor. He was of white complexion, 
of 150 bowshots in height, and lived for 10 lakhs of Purva. He attained 
Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. His sign is the crescent. 

{9) The ninth Tirthankara has two names : He was called Suvidhinatha 

because on his birth his clan gave up internecine warfare and took to the 
practice of religion (Suvidhi) ; he was also called Pushpadanta because he 
had teeth (danta) beautiful as flowers (Pushpa). His height was one hundred 
bowshots and his complexion white. His father's name Mas Sugriva and 
mother’s Rama. He was bom in Kakandi, ninety crores of Sagara after 
his predecessor. He lived for two lakhs of Purva and died on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His emblem is the crocodile according to the Swetambaras, and the 
crab according to the Digambaras. 

(10) Sitalanatha : As soon as he was conceived, his mother Sunanda was blessed 
with a miraculous cooling power (Sitalata) and she could cure anyone who 
suffered from a fever by laying her hand on the patient. His father was 
Dridharatha, king of Bhadrikapuri, in which city the Tirthankara was born 
nine crores of Sagara after his predecessor. He was ninety bowshots in 
height and lived for one lakh of Purva, at the end of which he obtained Nirvana 
on Mount Parsvanatha. His complexion was golden yellow*. His sign is 
the Srivatsa Swastika according to the Swetambaras, and the sacred fig tree 
according to the Digambaras. 


(11) 

( 12 ) 
(13) 


Sreyamsanatha : He was bom in Simhapuri, one crore of Sagara after his 
predecessor, of king Vishnu and queen Vishnu. His height was eighty bowr- 
shots. He lived for eighty-four lakhs of years and obtained Nirvana on 
Mount Kailas. His complexion was golden yellow*. His sign is the rhinoceros 
according to one account and the eagle according to another. 

Vasupujya: He was bom in Champapuri fifty-four Sagara after his predecessor. 
He attained Nirvana in the same place. His height was seventy bowshots 
and colour red, and he lived for 72 lakhs of years. His fathers name was 
Vasupuja and mother’s Vijaya. His sign is the buffalo. 


Vimalanatha : On his conception his mother Surainya was endowed with 
clearness of vision hence his name Vimalanatha {lord of clearness). A 
legend says that she showed her clear vision in the : foUowmg manner . A 
pilgrim and his wife stayed in a temple which was mhabited by a f emale demon. 
She fell in love -with the pilgrim and assumed the shape of his wife and 
the confused man could not tell which of the two was h^ rea L wife. Indus 
predicament he went to king Kritavarman, Vimalana ttas father, and begged 
him to solve the difficulty. The king was as confused as the pilgrim lumsclf 



194 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


iteration reaches its lowest point, Utsarpini, the upward trend will start. We are told that 
Utsarpini will start in the month of Shravana (July-August). There will be continuous 
rain for seven days, and the scorched earth will again clothe herself in green. 

The ages of the Utsarpini are the same as those of Avasarpini but in reverse order. 
There will be twenty-four Tirthankaras in Utsarpini too. The first of these will appear 
in Dusama Susama and the remaining twenty-three in Susama. When the zenith of the 
upward course is reached in Susama Susama, Avasarpini will start again, and thus the 
mystic wheel rotates endlessly and aeons roll on aeons. 

The Tirthankaras, as we have seen, are the greatest of beings and their worship is 
recommended. But the Jains worship the Tirthankaras not because they arc able to grant 
boons or favours but on the broad principle that worship of sacred persons is good for the 
soul of the worshipper. Tirthankaras are all above desires, even the desire of saving souls, 
and as such no Tirthankara can convert a sinner into a saint and send him to heaven. 
In Jainism there is no short cut to salvation. Every one must patiently and diligently 
work out one’s own liberation by penance and right living. 

The twenty-four Tirthankaras of the Avasarpini were : 

(1) Rishabhadeva : As we have seen, this sage appeared in Susama Dusama. 
His father was Nabhiraja and mother Maru Devi, Rishablia means bull 
and he was so called because his mother, when he was conceived, had a dream 
of a white bull coming towards her. He was born in Ayodhya and had a 
golden yellow complexion. His height was 500 bowshots and he lived 
8,400,000 Purva of time. He had one daughter and one hundred sons. He 
attained Nirvana on Mount Kailas in the Himalayas. His sign is the bull. 

(2) Aiitanatha: This Tirthankara appeared in Dusama Susama, fifty lakhs 
of crores of Sagara after Rishabhadeva. He was like his predecessor, bom 
in Ayodhya. His father was king Jitasatru and mother Vijaya Devi. His 
height was 450 bowshots and complexion yellow. He attained liberation on 
Mount Parsvanatha at the age of seventy-two lakhs of Purva of time. His 
emblem is the elephant. 

(3) Samhavanatha : Bom of Jitari and Sena in Srivasti, he was 400 bowshots 
in height. The interval between Ajitanatha and Sambhavanatha was 30 
lakhs of crores of Sagara. Of golden yellow complexion, he lived for sixty 
lakhs of Purva of time and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha together 
with one thousand ascetics. His sign is the horse. 

(4) Abhinandana : Bom in Ayodhya of king Samvara and queen Siddhartha, 
ten lakhs ot crores of Sagara after Sambhavanatha, he lived for fifty lakhs of 
Purva and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. His complexion was 
golden yellow and height 350 bowshots. His sign is the monkey. 

(5) Sumatinatha : Nine lakhs of crores of Sagara after Abhinandana, was bom 
the fifth Tirthankara in Ayodhya. His father was Icing Megharatha. A 
story is told of his mother Sumangala similar to that of Solomon's judgement 
between the two mothers who claimed the same baby. Sumatinatha was 
300 bowshots in height and lived for 40 lakhs of Purva. His complexion 
was golden yellow. His sign is the curlew. 

(6) Suparsvanatha : Bom in Kasi nine thousand crores of Sagara after his 
predecessor, his height was 200 bowshots and complexion green. His father 



JAINISM 


I97 


attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha, having lived for 55,000 years 
One thousand crores of years separate Mallinatha and Aranatha. Mallina tha 
was 01 a golden blue hue, and was twenty-five bowshots in height The 
emblem of the Tirthankara is the Kumbha or water jar. 


(20) Munisuvrata : He was bom, 54 lakhs of years after Mallinatha, in Raja- 
giiha. His father’s name was Suraitra and mother’s Padmavati. He was 
twenty bowshots in height, lived for 30,000 years and attained Nirvana on 
Mount Parsvanatha. He was dark, and his sign is the tortoise. 


(21) Naminatha : Six lakhs of years after Munisuvrata, appeared Naminatha. 
He was bom in Mithila of king Vijaya and queen Vipra. A legend says that 
while Vipra was pregnant the city was besieged by an enemy and all hope of 
saving it was lost ; but on the advice of the astrologers, the queen appeared 
on the city wall and the effulgent light the embryo shed filled the enemy with 
fear and awe, and the besieging army bowed down before the queen and 
hence her son was named Naminatha (the lord of those who bowed down). 
Naminatha was fifteen bowshots in height and he Jived for 10,000 years. 
His complexion was golden yellow and he attained Nirvana on Mount 
Parsvanatha. His emblem is the blue lotus. 


(22) Neminatha : He was bom in Dwaraka of king Samudravijaya and queen 
Sivadevi. He was ten bowshots in height and lived for 1,000 years. He 
attained Nirvana on Mount Gimar. Krishna and Baldeva lived in his time 
and were his cousins. Neminatha appeared five lakhs of years after 
Naminatha. He was of a dark hue with an inner tinge of red. His sign is 
the conch. 


(23) Parsvanatha : He was bom in Kasi of king Asvasena and queen Vama, 
84,000 years after Neminatha. He was nine cubits in height and lived 100 
years. He was dark blue in colour and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His sign is the serpent. Unlike his predecessors, Parsvanatha is 
a historical personage, and we have already had occasion to notice him as the 
forerunner of Mahavira. 


(24) Mahavira : He appeared 250 years after Parsvanatha. He was seven 
cubits in height, and his complexion was golden yellow. The bon is his 
emblem. We have alredy dealt with this Tirthankara in some details as 
the real founder of Jainism. 


It is interesting to note that all the 24 Tirthanlmras were of : royal birth and had 
nothing to do with Brahmins and Brahmimsm. Besides the Hrthankaras, th.re are 
thirty-nine other personages who are worthy of great honour. These are the i- Lh^cra- 
vartins, 9 Narayanas or Vasudevas, 9 Pratinarayanas or Itatoyasndevaj _aaid9 ^alabbadras. 
These together with the 24 Tirthankaras form the sixty-three 


iiKCLuei wiui me 24 niuiduiwuw .. ■> , _ j 

hagiology. Lesser than these but still important are gNarad^ir 24^madevas, 

48 parents of Tirthankaras and 14 Kulakaras. These 106 form the second group 
of sacred personages. A detailed description of all these great souls, pre-eminently holy 
as they were, is likely to bore any reader who is not a Jam ascetic. 

The Jains also know the names and the present homes of the twenty-four Tirthan- 
karas who will appear in the Utsarpini. These will be : 



Ig6 EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 

but the queen came to his aid. She asked the two women to stand far away 
from the pilgrim and reach out their hands to touch him. The human wife 
could not touch her husband because of the distance, but the demoness 
elongated her hand by her magic powers and touched the pilgrim, and thus 
betrayed herself. Vimalanatha was bom thirty Sagaras alter his predecessor. 
He was sixty bowshots in height and lived for sixty lakhs of years. He was 
of golden yellow complexion. Born in Kampilya, he attained Nirvana on 
Mount Parsvanatha. His sign is the boar. 

(14) Anantanatha : He appeared in Ayodhya nine Sagara after Vimalanatha. 
His father’s name was Simhasena and mother’s Sarvayasa. He was fifty 
bowshots in height and lived for thirty lakhs of years. His complexion was 
golden yellow and he attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. His sign, 
according to the Swetambaras, is the falcon, and according to the Digam- 
baras, the bear. 

(15) Dharmanatha : He was bom in Ratnapuri of king Bhanu and queen 
Suvrata. The interval of time between Anantanatha and Dharmanatha 
was four Sagara. His height was forty-five bowshots and he lived for ten 
lakhs of years. He was of golden yellow conplexion and attained Nirvana 
on Mount Kailas. His sign is the thunderbolt. 

(16) Santinatha : He was so called because his mother Achira, on conceiving 
him, brought peace (Santi) to the people of the country which was, till then, 
being ravaged by a terrible plague. Santinatha's father Visvasena was king 
of Hastinapura and the Tirthankara was bom in this city three Sagara minus 
3/4th Palya after Dharmanatha's demise. He lived one lakh of years ana 
his height was forty bowshots. He attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. 
His complexion was golden yellow, and his sign is the deer. 

(17) Kuntanatha : Half a Palya separates this Tirthankara from his prede- 
cessor. He was bom of king Surya and queen Sridevi in the city of Hastina- 
pura. He was thirty-five bowshots in height and lived for 95.000 years. 
He was golden yellow in complexion and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His sign is the goat. 

(18) Aranatha : After half a Palya since Kuntanatha, appeared this Tirthankara 
in Hastinapura. His father was king Sudarsana and mother queen Mitra. 
He was thirty bowshots in height, lived for 84,000 years and died on Mount 
Parsvanatha. He was of golden yellow complexion and his sign is the fish. 

(19) Mallinatha : The sex of this personage is a disputed point. The Swetatn- 
baras maintain that the Tirthankara was a woman, whereas the Digambaras, 
who believe that no woman can obtain liberation, that he was a man. Accord- 
ing to the Swctambara tradition, Mallinatha, in a previous birth, used to 
perform penances in the company of five monks. They never hid anything 
from one another and always performed the same type of penances and fasted 
on the same days. Mallinatha was, however, overcome by an unholy desire 
to excel his companions in virtue and fasted, on the quiet, for an extra day. 
For this sin he was reborn as a woman, but his Karma had been worn ou 
and nothing could prevent his becoming a Tirthankara. Digambaras, of 
course, reject the story and stoutly maintain that he was bom a man. 
Mallinatha was bom in Mithila of king Kumbha and queen Prabhavati, ana 



JAINISM 


197 


attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha, having lived for 55,000 years. 
One thousand crores of years separate Mallinatha and Aranatha. Mallinatha 
was of a golden blue hue, and was twenty-five bowshots in height. The 
emblem of the Tirthankara is the Kumbha or water jar. 

(20) Munisuvrata : He was born, 54 lakhs of years after Mallinatha, in Raja- 
griha. His father’s name was Sumitra and mother’s Padmavati. He was 
twenty bowshots in height, lived for 30,000 years and attained Nirvana on 
Mount Patsvanatha. He was dark, and his sign is the tortoise. 

{21) Naminatha : Six lakhs of years after Munisuvrata, appeared Naminatha. 
He was bora in Mithila of king Vijaya and queen Vipra. A legend says that 
while Vipra was pregnant the city was besieged by an enemy and all hope of 
saving it was lost ; but on the advice of the astrologers, the queen appeared 
on the city wall and the effulgent light the embryo shed filled the enemy with 
fear and awe, and the besieging army bowed down before the queen and 
hence her son was named Naminatha (the lord of those who bowed down). 
Naminatha was fifteen bowshots in height and he lived for 10,000 years. 
His complexion was golden yellow and ho attained Nirvana on Mount 
Parsvanatha. His emblem is the blue lotus. 

(22) Neminatha : He was bom in Dwaraka of king Samudravijaya and queen 
Sivadevi. He was ten bowshots in height and lived for 1,000 years. He 
attained Nirvana on Mount Gimar. Krishna and Baldeva lived in his time 
and were his cousins. Neminatha appeared five lakhs of years after 
Naminatha. He was of a dark hue with an inner tinge of red. His sign is 
the conch. 

(23) Parsvanatha : He was bom in Kasi of king Asvasena and queen Vama, 
84,000 years after Neminatha. He was nine cubits in height and lived 100 
years. He was dark blue in colour and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His sign is the serpent. Unlike his predecessors, Parsvanatha is 
a historical personage, and we have already had occasion to notice him as the 
forerunner of Mahavira. 

(24) Mahavira : He appeared 250 years after Parsvanatha. He was seven 
cubits in height, and his complexion was golden yellow. The lion is his 
emblem. We have alredy dealt with this Tirthankara in some details as 
the real founder of Jainism. 

It is interesting to note that all the 24 Tirthankaras were of royal birth, and had 
nothing to do with Brahmins and Brahmin ism. Besides the Tirthankaras, there are 
thirty-nine other personages who are worthy of great honour. These are the 12 Chakra- 
vartins, 9 Narayanas or Vasudevas, 9 Pratinarayanas or Prativasudevas, and 9 Balabbadras, 
These together with the 24 Tirthankaras form the sixty-three sacred persons of Jain 
hagiology. Lesser than these but still important are 9 Naradas, 11 Rudras, 24 Kamadevas, 
48 parents of Tirthankaras and 14 Kulakaras. These 106 form the second group 
of sacred personages. A detailed description of all these great souls, pre-eminently holy 
as they were, is likely to bore any reader who is not a Jain ascetic. 

The Jains also know the names and the present homes of the twenty-four Tirthan- 
karas who will appear in the Utsarpini. These will be : 


1 1 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


ig6 

but the queen came to his aid. She asked the two women to stand far away 
from the pilgrim and reach out their hands to touch him. The human wife 
could not touch her husband because of the distance, but the demoness 
elongated her hand by her magic powers and touched the pilgrim, and thus 
betrayed herself. Vimalanatha was bom thirty Sagaras after his predecessor. 
He was sixty bowshots in height and lived for sixty lakhs of years. He was 
of golden yellow complexion. Born in Kampilya, he attained Nirvana on 
Mount Parsvanatha. His sign is the boar. 

{14) Anantanatha : He appeared in Ayodhya nine Sagara after Vimalanatha. 
His father’s name was Simhasena and mother’s Sarvayasa. He was fifty 
bowshots in height and lived for thirty lakhs of years. His complexion was 
golden yellow and he attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. His sign, 
according to the Swetambaras, is the falcon, and according to the Digam- 
baras, the bear. 

(15) Dharmanatha : He was born in Ratnapuri of king Bhanu and queen 
Suvrata. The interval of time between Anantanatha and Dharmanatha 
was four Sagara. His height was forty-five bowshots and he lived for ten 
lakhs of years. He was of golden yellow conplexion and attained Nirvana 
on Mount Kailas. His sign is the thunderbolt. 

(16) Santinatha : He was so called because his mother Achira, on conceiving 
him, brought peace (Santi) to the people of the country which was, till then, 
being ravaged by a terrible plagne. Santinatha's father Visvasena was king 
of Hastinapura and the Tirthankara was bom in this city three Sagara minus 
3/4th Palya after Dharmanatha’s demise. He lived one lakh of years and 
his height was forty bowshots. He attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha. 
His complexion was golden yellow, and his sign is the deer. 

(17) Kuntanatha : Half a Palya separates this Tirthankara from his prede- 
cessor. He was bom of king Surya and queen Sridevi in the city of Hastina- 
pura. He was thirty-five bowshots in height and lived for 95.000 years. 
He was golden yellow in complexion and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His sign is the goat. 

(18) Aranatha : After half a Palya since Kuntanatha, appeared this Tirthankara 
in Hastinapura. His father was king Sudarsana and mother queen Mitra. 
He was thirty bowshots in height, lived for 84,000 years and died on Mount 
Parsvanatha. He was of golden yellow complexion and his sign is the fish. 

(19) Mallinatha : The sex of this personage is a disputed point. The Swetam- 
baras maintain that the Tirthankara was a woman, whereas the Digambaras, 
who believe that no woman can obtain liberation, that he was a man. Accord- 
ing to the Swetambara tradition, Mallinatha, in a previous birth, used to 
perform penances in the company of five monks. They never hid anything 
from one another and always performed the same type of penances and fasted 
on the same days. Mallinatha was, however, overcome by an unholy desire 
to excel his companions in virtue and fasted, on the quiet, for an extra day. 
For this sin he was reborn as a woman, but his Karma had been worn off 
and nothing could prevent his becoming a Tirthankara. Digambaras, of 
course, reject the story and stoutly maintain that he was bom a man. 
Mallinatha was bom in Mithila of king Kumbha and queen Prabhavati, and 



JAINISM 


I97 


attained Nirvana on Mount Parsvanatha, having lived for 55,000 years. 
One thousand crores of years separate MaUinaiha and Aranatha. Mallinatha 
was of a golden blue hue, and was twenty-five bowshots in height. The 
emblem of the Tirthankara is the Kumbha or water jar. 

{20) Munisuvrata : He was born, 54 lakhs of years after Mallinatha, in Raja- 
grilia. His father's name was Sumitra and mother's Padmavati. He was 
twenty bowshots in height, lived for 30,000 years and attained Nirvana on 
Mount Parsvanatha. He was dark, and his sign is the tortoise. 

(21) Naminatha : Six lakhs of years after Munisuvrata, appeared Naminatha. 
He was bom in Mithila of king Vijaya and queen Vipra. A legend says that 
while Vipra was pregnant the city was besieged by an enemy and all hope of 
saving it was lost ; but on the advice of the astrologers, the queen appeared 
on the city wall and the effulgent light the embryo shed filled the enemy with 
fear and awe, and the besieging army bowed down beiore the queen and 
hence her son was named Naminatha (the lord of those who bowed down). 
Naminatha was fifteen bowshots in height and he lived for 10,000 years. 
His complexion was golden yellow and he attained Nirvana on Mount 
Parsvanatha. His emblem is the blue lotus. 

(22) Neminatha: He was bom in Dwaraka of king Samudravijaya and queen 
Sivadevi. He was ten bowshots in height and lived for i.ooo years. He 
attained Nirvana on Mount Gimar. Krishna and Baldeva lived in his time 
and were his cousins. Neminatha appeared five lakhs of years after 
Naminatha. He was of a dark hue with an inner tinge of red. His sign is 
the conch. 

(23) Parsvanatha : He was bom in Kasi of king Asvasena and queen Vama, 
84,000 years after Neminatha. He was nine cubits in height and lived 100 
years. He was dark blue in colour and attained Nirvana on Mount Parsva- 
natha. His sign is the serpent. Unlike his predecessors, Parsvanatha is 
a historical personage, and we have already had occasion to notice him as the 
forerunner of Mahavira. 

(24) Mahavira: He appeared 250 years after Parsvanatha. He was seven 
cubits in height, and his complexion was golden yellow. The lion is his 
emblem. We have alredy dealt with this Tirthankara in some details as 
the real founder of Jainism. 

It is interesting to note that all the 24 Tirthankaras were of royal birth, and had 
nothing to do with Brahmins and Brahminism. Besides the Tirthankaras, there are 
thirty-nine other personages who are worthy of great honour. These are the 12 Chakra- 
vartins, 9 Narayanas or Vasudevas, 9 Pratinarayanas or Prativasudevas, and 9 Balabbaaras. 
These together with the 24 Tirthankaras form the sixty-three sacred persons of Jain 
hagiology. Lesser than these but still important are 9 Naradas, 11 Rudras, 24 Kamadevas, 
48 parents of Tirthankaras and 14 Kulakaras. These 106 form the second group 
of sacred personages. A detailed description of all these great souls, pre-eminently holy 
as they were, is likely to bore any reader who is not a Jain ascetic. 

' The Jains also know the names and the present homes of the twenty-four Tirthan- 
karas who will appear in the Utsarpini. These will be : 



198 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


(1) Padmanabha : He will appear in Dusama S usama of the Utsarpini. He is 
at present in the first hell working out his Karma. 

{2) Suradeva: He and his twenty-two successors will appear in Susama. At 
present he is in the second Devaloka (heaven). 

(3) Suparsva : He is now in the third Devaloka. 

(4) Swayamprabhu : He is now in the fourth Devaloka. 

(5) Sarvanubhuti : He is now in the second Devaloka. In a previous birth he 
was Dritaketu, uncle of Mallinatha, the lady Tirthankara of the Avasarpini. 

(6) Devasruta : He is now in the first Devaloka. 

(7) Udayaprabhu : He is now in the twelfth Devaloka. 

(8) Pedhala : Now in the first Devaloka. 

(9) Potila : Now in the first Devaloka. 

(10) Satakirti : Now expiating his Karma in the third hell. 

(n) Munisuvrata : He is now in the eighth Devaloka. In a previous birth this 
would-be Tirthankara was the well-known Devaki, mother of Krishna, of 
Hindu mythology. 

(12) Aniama : He is now in the third hell. He is no other than the famous 
Krishna of the Hindus who, the Jains believe, has not yet liberated himself 
but will in the Susama of the coming Utsarpini.. 

{13) Nikasaya : He is now in the fifth Devaloka. In a previous birth he was 
the spiritual preceptor of Ravana, of Hindu mythology. 

{14) Nisupalaka : He is now in the sixth Devaloka. He was, in a previous birth, 
Balarama, Krishna's half brother. 

(15) Nirmama : He is now in the fifth Devaloka. 

(16) Chitragupta : He is now in the second Devaloka and was once Rohini, the 
stepmother of Krishna and mother of Balarama. 

(17) Sumadhi : Now in the twelfth Devaloka, living as a woman. 

(18) Samavamatha: Now living as a woman in the eighth Devaloka. 

{19) Yasodhara: He was once the famous Hindu ascetic Dwaipayana Vyasa, 
and is at present a celestial. 

(20) Vijaya: Now in the twelfth Devaloka. He was a relative of Krishna in 
a previous birth. 

(21) Malyadeva : Now in the fifth Devaloka. 

(22) Devajina : Now in the twelfth Devaloka. 

(23) Anantavirya : He is now in Graiveyika (upper region situated above 
Devalokas). 



JAINISM 


*99 

(24) Bhadrajjna: This last of the Tirth.mfam of the Utsarpini is now living 
m the highest Devaloka. a 


After Bhadrajina there will be no more Tirthankara in 
will progress towards Susama Susama and when this age is 
start again and thus the wheel whirls on endlessly. 


the Utsarpini. Tire world 
completed, Avasarpini will 


GODS AND DEMONS 

Though the Jains do not believe in a Supreme Being, in a Trinity, or even in 
a Real as the mainstay of the rolling universe, yet they believe in most of the gods sages 
demi-gods and demons of Hindu mythology. The gods are different from humans but 
they are not almighty or all-virtuous. They have their divine failings. Though ’they 
enjoy certain ocult powers, and as such may be considered superior to humans, in some 
respects they are definitely inferior. No god, for instance, can attain liberation unless 
he be bom as man. Liberation is possible only to humans. Yet seme gods are worthy 
of honour and a few are actually worshipped due, no doubt, to Hindu influence. 

If there is no short cut to salvation in Jainism, there is also no need for utter despair. 
For no demon is eternally damned. They are also working out their Karina, and in crores 
and crores of Sagaras of Purva of Palya of Sagaropama are capable of attaining libera- 
tion. The hells are, like the hells of Buddhism and Hinduism, but purgatories. 

To get some idea of the nature, occupations and habits of demons and gods, it is 
necessary for the reader to be acquainted with the Jain conception of the universe. Spati- 
ally the univeise is divided into three : The upper, middle and lower regions. The Jains 
represent the conception by the headless figure of a man. The waist of the figure repre- 
sents the middle region, the leg the lower region and the trunk the upper region. 

The nether region is subdivided into seven hells, the lowest and darkest being the 
seventh hell, at the right foot of the mystic figure. The first hell is called Ratna Prabha 
or jewel ; the second, Sarkara Prabha or sugar ; the third, Valuka Prabha or sand ; fourth 
Pankha Prabha or mud ; fifth, Dhuma Prabha or smoke; sixth, Tama Prabha or darkness ; 
and seventh, Maha Tama Prabha or greater darkness. These hells are torture chambers, 
and the lesser gods are engaged in torturing souls here. 


The gods that live in hells and torture their victims are of fifteen kinds : The Amba 
Week the nerves of the victims ; the Anibarasa hew flesh from bones ; the Sama bastinado 
their victims ; the Sabala tear out the flesh; the Kudra torture with spears; the Maharudra 
mince the flesh : the Kala roast the victims ; the Mahakala tear them with pincers ; the 
Asipala are swordsmen and cut with the swords ; the Dhanu are archers and shoot their 
victims ; the Kumbha torture with chillie powder ; the Va lu steep their victims in hot 
sand ; the Vetarani dash sinners against stones ; the Kharasvara force souls to sit on 
thorns ; and the Mahaghosha shut them up in dark holes. 


On a level with the hells but on the other side, represented by the left leg of the 
figure, is Patala. Patala has a mixed population of godlings and demons. _ The gcdlings 
are called Bhavanapati and are classified into ten. The demons are divided mto two 
major groups called Vyantaras and Van a Vyantaras, and each group has several sub- 
divisions. Of the better known demons of the Vyantara group arc : The Pisacha who 
haunt the Kadamba Tree ; the Bhuta who haunt the Sutasa tree ; the Yaksha who haunt 
the Banyan tree; the Gandliarva who haunt the Timbara tree; and the ; Mahoraga who 
haunt the Naga tree. All these are black demons. The Rakshasas who haunt the Kha- 
tamba tree and the Kimpurushas who haunt the Champaka tree are white Vyantaras. 



200 


EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


More fearsome than the Vyantaras are the Vana Vyantaras. They are of 
eight classes : Anapanni, Panapanni, Isivayi, Bhutavayi, Kandiye, Mahakandiye, Kohanda 
and Pahanga. 

The middle region is the terrestial plane in which we live. It has eight ring shaped 
continents, each separated from the other by a ring shaped ocean. In the centre of this 
region rises the mighty mountain Meru. Moksha or liberation can only be obtained from 
this region. 

The upper region is subdivided into two : Kalpa and Kalpathitha. The dimen- 
sions of Kalpa has been ascertained but not of Kalpathitha. The former region is situated 
immediately above the middle region, and is again subdivided into sixteen Devalokas 
or heavens : They are numbered from bottom upwards as : (i) Saudharma (2) Aisana, 
(3) Sanatkumara, (4) Mahendra, (5) Brahma, (6) Brahmottara, (7) Lautaka, (8) Kapishta, 
(9) Sukra, (10) Mahasukra, (n) Satara, (12) Sahasrara, (13) Ananta, (14) Pranata, (15) Arana 
and (16) Achyata. 

The Kalpathitha portion is subdivided into nine Graiveyikas and five Pancha 
Anuttaras. 

The better class of gods live in the upper regions. All gods of the upper region 
are not, however, of the same importance. They are broadly divided into Jyotishi and 
Vimanavasi or gods of the brighter regions and gods of the sky. Each of these divisions 
is subdivided into many. While this classification is based on the regions they live in, 
there is another grouping based on occupations, very much like the caste system of the 
middle region. There are noble and servile castes among the gods. Of the latter, the 
scavengers who keep the streets of celestial cities clean are the lowest. They are untouch- 
ables and live outside city walls. 

There is yet another division based on their spiritual condition. Some gods are 
indifferent to religion, and turn a deaf ear to the sermons of the great ; others are of a 
religious bent of mind and attentive to the sermons of the sages. All gods are happy. 
They eat and drink and sing. As in Hindu mythology, Indra is the king of gods according 
to Jain conceptions too. 

Above Kalpathitha itself is the zenith of the universe called Sidliha Sila where 
the Siddhas (liberated souls) live in bliss unending. The twenty-four Tirthankaras of 
the Avasarpini are there. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Coleman, Charles : Hindu Mythology. 

Coomaraswamy, Dr. A., and Sr. Niveditta : Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists. 
Cutner, H. : A Short History of Sex-Worship. 

Eh'ot, Sir Charles : Hinduism and Buddhism. 

Ellis, E. S. : i,ooo Mythological Characters Briefly Described. 

Gour, Sir H. S. : The Spirit of Buddhism. 

Gupte, Rai Bahadur, G. A. : Hindu Holidays and Ceremonials. 

Jones, Sir William : Complete Works. 

Keith, A. B. : Indian Mythology ('Mythology of all Races' Scries Vol. VI). 
Mackenzie, D. A. : Indian Myth and Legend. 

Marguerite, Aspinwall : Jataka Tales Retold. 

Max Muller : Contribution to the Science of Mythology. 

McDonncl, A. A. : Vedic Mythology. 

Moor, E. : Hindu Pantheon (Edited by W. 0. Simpson). 

Niveditta, Sr. : See Coomaraswamy. 

Payne, E. A. : The Saklas. 

Radhakrishnan, S. : Indian Philosophy. 

Rodrigues, E. A. : Hindu Pantheon. 

Roy, P. C. : Mahabharata, Tr. 

Sanyal, J. M. : Bhagbata, Tr. 

Simpson, Rev. W. 0. : See Moor. 

Tawney, C. H. : Ocean of Story (Translation of Kallia Saril Sagara o/Somadcva). 
Wilkins, Rev. W. J. : Hindu Mythology. 

Williams, Sir M. : Buddhism. 

Wilson, H. H. : Vishnu Purana. 



GLOSSARY AND INDEX 


Abhinandana, a Tirtankara ; 194, 

Acharyas, Jain; iga 
Achyuta, a name of Vishnu ; 24. 

Adam ; 17. 

Adi Buddha, Primal Buddha ; 176, 

Adikavi, the first poet ; a name oi Brahma : 23. 

Aditi, wife of Kasyapa ; 38, 49, 67, 8s, 114. 

Aditya, son of Aditi ; 25, 60, 67, 81, 114. 

Advaita philosophy ; 93. 

Agastya, a sago ; 32, 69. 

Agm, god of fire . 11, 32, 45, 46, 48-50, 51, 65, 66. 83, 117, 
X22. 141. H 6 - 
/tgm puratta ; 66. 

Agniswamin, name of a Brahmin ; 149. 

Ahalya, wife of Gautama ; 48, 68. 

Aha, * Vasil ; 69. 

Ahi, an enemy of Indra ; 47. 

Airavatam, Indra 's elephant ; 47, 83, 91, 

Aja, a name of Brahma , 21. 

Ajanula, a Brahmin ; 95-96. 

Ajasat, Ajatasatru a King ; 173, 

Ajitanatha, a Tirthankara , 194, 

Ajiva, lifeless; 188. 

Ajmer ; zz. 

Akasa, the sky , 15. 

Akbar, emperor . 7. 97. 112. 

Akrura, a messenger , 35. 

Akshobhya, a Dhyaai Buddha , 175, 176. 

Alaha, heaven of Kubera , 31. 

Alexander; 5. 

Anwroa, a Tirthankara . 198 
Amaravati, heaven of Indra ; 48, 135. 

Ambadi, a country , 33. 

Ambabka, a princess , 70, S6. 

Ambika, a princess , 70, 86, 

Ambrosia , 90, 91. 

Amer, a flower , 103. 

Axmtabha, a Dhyam Buddha ; 175, 176. 

Amogha Siddha, a Dhyani Buddha ; 175, 176. 

Ann. a flower; 111. 

Amnta, nectar ; 116, 133. 

Anal a, a Vasu : 69. 

Anas da. a disciple of the Buddha ; 163, 164, 172, 174, 
Ananda, feliaty ; 65, 173. 

Ananga, a name of Kama ; ixj. 

Atlanta, a mythical seipent ; 55, 39, 131. 

Anunthauatha, aTirthankaia ; 197 . 

Anantavuya, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Anasuya, wife of Atri ; 67, 141, 142. 

Anavamadarsin, a Buddha ; 175. 

Andbakupa, a hell ; 95, 

Andhat&misra. a hell ; 94. 

Anga, a kingdom ; 73, 73, 

Angada, a monkey thief ; 124, 127. 

Angiras, a sage ; 49, 64, 65. 

Anila, a Vasu ; 69. 

Anlruddha, son of Fradyumna ; 105. 

Anjana, mother of Haauman ; 123. 

Annapurna Devi, a form of Parvatl ; 58, 153, *54. 

Anoma, a river ; 16S. 

Anshu, an Aditya ; 114. 

Ansusaan, a King ; 152, 153. 

Aparamargu, a land of grass ; <19. 

ApU, the bullgod of Egypt ; 4, 105. 

A psoras, celestial dancers ; 63, 70, 91, iji. 

Aquarius, a sign of the Zodiac ; 115. 

Arabian Nights ; 6. 

Arana t ha, a Tirthankara ; 196. 

Arara K&lama, a Sophist; 168. J70. 

Ardhanari, combined form of Shiva and Parvati ; 154. 
Argha, a vessel ; 108. 


Arhats, holy men ; 177, 187, 192. 

Aries, the Ram ; 115. 

Arjuna, a Pandava hero ; 24, 33, 35, 41, 71-80, 98-99. 

Arka, a shrub ; 121. 

Arthadarsm, a Buddha ; 175. 

Aruna, charioteer of Sun ; 115. 

Anmdhati, wife of Vasishta ; 67. 

Arupa Loka, formless world ; 177. 

Ary amat, an Aditya ; 114. 

Aryans , 4. 5. 6, 7- 27. 38, 82, 93. 9 4. nj, 122. >5*- 
Arya Samaj, a sect , 4, 6, 20. 

Asau Puriuma, a Bacchanalian festival , 163. 

Asia Minor ; 2, 5. 

Asipatravana, a hell , 93. 

Asoka, the Buddhist emperor ; 162, 175. 

Asoka, a rtee ; 191. 

Assyrian ; 82. , 

Asura, enemy of the gods ; r3, r5, 19, 24, 41, 4*. 43. <"• S 1 ' 
66, 67, Ur. 82, 84, 88, 92, 117. 120, 122, 132. 146. *77* 
Asvapatin, a tang ; 99. 

Aswamedba, horse sacrifice ; 129, 152- 
Aswatara, a mythical serpent ; 130. 

Aswatha, Ficus Behgtosa . 119. 

Aswathaman, an elephant , 80. 

Aswathaman, son of Drona : 73, 74, 79. So. 

Aswin, a Hindu month : 136. 

As wins, divine twins , 4, 52, 60, 71, 

Atharava Veda, fourth Veda ; 5. 93. 94« lI 5- 
Atmabhu, a name of Brahma ; 22. 

Atmaliogatn, the real Lingam ; 83, 84. 

Atn, a sage ; 65, 66, 67, n6, 141. - 

Aura, the mystic monosyllabic representing the Deity • **• 
1 13. 

Aurora; 4. 

Avasanpim ; 192, 193, 194, 199. 200. 

Avatar, incarnation ; 24. 

Avici or Avjchimat, a hell ; 95, 177. 

Ayanaghosha, a herdsman ; xro. 

Ayodhya, an ancient kingdom ; 28, 29, 3°. 3*. "9. **3« 

126, 137, X45, 146, 152, X94. t96. 

Babylon ; 5, 105. 

Bacchanalian festival; 5, 105. 

Bacchus, Greek god of wine ; 4, 67, 106. 

Bahuka, Nala’s assumed name ; 143, 146. 

Baka, a camubal Asnra ; 87, 97. 

Balabhadras, Jain holy men ; 197. _ s , . 

Balarama, brother of Krishna ; 4, 24. 34. 35. 3 6 * 60 * 9 • 3 
Bah, ail Asura long ; 26, 27, 46, 90, 91, X20, r3“- 
Bah, a monkey chief ; 32, fir, 122, J26, 129. 

Buna, an Asura king ; 104, 

Banai, a demi-goddess ; 251. 

Banyan tree ; 235. 

Behula, a lady ; 62, 63. 

Bel tree; 139. 

Bela, a flower ; 103. 

Benares ; 39, 74, 75, 96, 131, x55, X79, l8j , 195* 

Bengal; 6r, 238. 

Ben track, Lord William ; 97. 

Berkley; ij. 

Besar, a town : 186. 

Bbadrajina, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Bhadrapad, a Hindu month ; 240. 

Bhaga, an aditya ; 6r, X14. „ 

BAagbala, a Purana ; 12, 13, 1 6, 18, 23, 24, 36, 87. 94« 9J> 

Bhaguatha, a long ; 132, 153. 

Bhagiratbi, Ganges ; 253. 

Bhagvadgita, the song celestial ; 24. 33, 78. 

Bhanava, a form of Shiva i I5t» 

Bhauavi, a goddess ; 57. 



EPICS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


JO* 

Digambaras, a Jain sect ; 186, 188, tgo, 191, 192, 195, 196. 

Dilipa, a lung ; Ij). 

Dipankarn, a Buddha ; 175, l83. 

Dili, wife of ICasyapa; 51, 67, 81, 131. 

Divaii, a festival 136, 138, 192. 

Divine Mothers ; bi 
Dog - , m> (h ol ; 129-131. 

Dom, Keeper of cremation ground 2 *55, 150, 137, 

Draupadi, a princess ; 73, 76, 77, ioi, 117. 

Dra vidian ; 7, 37 * 

Drona, a teacher ; 69. 72, 73, 74, 76, 78, 79, 80, 86. 

Drupada, a king ; 73, 7.4, 76, 86. 

Dulare ; 106. 

Durbar ; 137, 138, 139. 

Durga, an Asura ; 55, 56. 

Durga, goddess . 4, 51, 35, 56, 38, 59, 61, 110, 137, 138. 
Durga Puja, a festival ; 137. 

Dun a grass; 118,120,134. 

Durvasa, a sage 2 69, 90, 148. 

Duryodhaua, a princess . 71, 72, 73, 74, 73, 76, 77, 78, 80, Si, 
*«• 

Dusama, a mythical time division ; 193, 194, 197. 
Dushyanta, a king ; 147, 148. 

Dussasana, a prince; 71, 77. 

Dwaparayuga, a mythical aga ; t6, 43, 70, 127. 

Dwaraka, a city ; 35, 36, 83, 87, 104, uS, 135. 

Dyaus, the sky ; 48, i»7- 
Dyumatsena, a king , 99, roo, joi. 

Eden ; 16. 

Egypt , 2, 4, 5. 103, 109. 

Egyptian m> thology ; 3, 17. 

Egyptians , 4, 3. 53- 
Ekacbakra, a town ; 73, 76, 87, 83. 

Emusha, a boar ; 25. 

Eros; 4, 103. 

Esquitine, Mt. , 103. 

Europe ; 3, 5. 97. 

Furnish myths ; 3. 

Fire god ; see Agni. 

Four Kings, Buddhist deities ; 177. 

Freudians; 105. 

Furies ; 34. 

Gad ha, mace ; 34- 

Gana, a group of deities ; 43, 69. 

Ganapatyas, a sect ; 113. 

Gandhamadaaa, a monkey chief ; 122. 

Gandhari, a queen ; 35, 7 1. 

Gandharva, a form of marriage ; 147. 

Gandharvas, celestial musicians ; 64, 69, 70, 91, 122, 133. 
Gandiva, a bow ; 98. 

Ganesha, elephant headed deity ; 4,3, 43, 44, 60, 69, 83, 84, 
138, 140, 141. 

Ganesha Chaturthl, a festival ; 140, 141. 

Ganga, the GaDgts ; 5, 7, 18, 19, 24, 39, 42, 44, 45, 68, 7c, 
97,98, 138, M9-153. >83- 

Gam da, mythical man-bird ; 24, 30, 39, 67, 115, X2*. 131. 
132, 169. 

Garudastra, a weapon ; 132. 

Gatis, courses of h fa; 177. 

Gautama Indrabhuti, a Jain saint ; 187, 

Gautama, India's Gum ; 47, 64, 68. 

Gautama, the Buddha ; 161, 163, 165, j68, 172, 175, 176, 177. 
Gayatn, a Mantra; 63, 115. 

Gayatn, a name of Sarasvati ; 23, 60. 

Gefflini, sign of the Zodiac ; 215. 

Genesis; xx. 

Germans ; 3, 4. 

Gibraltar ; 2. 

Ginvnja, a aty ; 30. 

Gita; see Bhagvadgita. 

Gila Gonnda, a poem ; 109, no, III. 


Godavari ; 31. 

Gohatya, sin of killing cows ; 128. 

Gokarna, a place ; 84. 

Cokula, a country ; 34, 33. 

Golden Mountaio ; usj 

Copls, milkmaids; 86, 109. no, 111, 111. 

Gosala, a Jain Saint ; t8j. 

Govardbana, a mountain ; 33, 138. 
Govinda, a uamo of Vishnu ; 39. 

Graiv eyika, 0 mythical space division ; 199, 
Great Bear, constellation of ; 64, 66, 67. 
Greece ; 2, 3, 7. «03, 107. 

Greeks ; x, 2, 3. 4> 5. 7. »7- *>. 53. 79. I03- 
Gularas; 7. 

Gujarat; 7. 


Ifahagirf, a Jafn monk ; i 8 j. 

Hanuman, a simian deity : 31, 32, 85, 115, 122, 123-128. 
Hara, a name of Shiva ; 96, 106. 

Jlaxi, a name of Vishnu ; 24. 58, 59. 

Harischandra, a king ; 154-157. 

Kariti, Buddhist deity ; 1C2. 

Hastmapur. a aty ; 70, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 86. 
llastipala, a king ; 187. 

Hebrew , 5. 19 - 

Hcraachandra, Jain scholar ; 187. 

Hercules , 2, 132. 

Herodotus : I. 2. 

Heroes, race of. 17. 

Hesiod , 17. 

Himalayas; 34. 3*. 4>. 42. 45. S3. >23. 165, 181, 183, 
Himavan, Himalayas ; 19. 53, 132. 

1 Iinayana, a Buddhist sect ; 175, 176. 

Hindu Tnad ; See Triad and Tnnity. 

Hinduism ; 81, 93. 113, »3°. 150. xGl. 162. *63. 275. *7 6 - 
Hindu*; 3. 4. 5. «», 20, 41, 33. 74. 91, 93. 97. »°7. »*. 
113. 14*- 

HiranyaearblU, a name of IJrahma; 23. 

Hiranyakasipu. an Asura ; 26, 82. 

Hiranyaksha, an Asura ; 25, 26, 82. 
lloli, a festival ; 5, 136, 139. 

Homer; 3. 

Horns, an Egyptian deity ; 4, 105. 


Iskhwaku, a race ; 87. 

Ila. wife of Budba ; 119. 

India ; x, 4, 5, 41. 109, 142, 148, 175, 1S8. 

Indo Aryan* ; 5. 7, 38. 82, 130. 

Indore ; 139. 

India, long of gods; 4, 6, it, xg, 32, 33, 41, 44 47, 3«. 

68, 83, 87, 90. 9*. 93. 99. 102. 114, X17, 1*2,-124 x 3 2 « ’33 
143, 147, 132, X62, i 73 . 174, ,91. 

Indrabhuti, Gautama; sto Gautama Indrabhuti 
Indrajit, son ol Havana ; 32, 46, 132. 

Indram, a goddess ; 47, 60, 6t. 

Icdraprastha, a aty; 76, 77, 78, 86. 

Indus, river : 132. _ 

Isam, a form ol Shiva ; 51. 

Isis, an Egyptian goddess ; 3, 53, 103. 

Islam ; 7, 97. 

Iswara, a name of Shiva ; 4. 


Jack, the Giant Killer ; 81. 
Jaga itna th, legend of ; 150-151. 
Jaknu, a Sage ; 153. 

Jainism ; 187-199. * 

Jains; 7. 186, 187 
Jajati, a long ; 90. 

Jalandhar, an Asura ; 134. 
Jamadagm, a sage ; 27, 28, 64, 68. 
Jambavan, the bear chief 1 122, 127. 
Jambudwipa, a mytical island ; 19, 

J ambu tree, a mytical tree ; 19. 



GLOSSARY A SD IXDRX 


i analta. a king ; 29- 
anmavhtami, a festival ; 142. 

Janos, a Roman deity; 

Jara, a hunter ; 36 
Jarasandha, an Asura ting ; 87. 

Jason; 4, 

I ataka Tales ; 178-185. 
atayu, a vulture ; 30, 31, 124, 132. 
aya, gate keeper ot Vishnu ; 82, 86, 
ayadeva, a poet ; log, no. 
ca n s. Sir Ja me s ; xi. 

Jejury, a placo; *51. 

juaaVi86. 

Jiva, laving {onus ; iSS. 

Jones, Sir William ; 188. 

Jrimbhakagraina, a village ; 186. 

i ndaism ; 106, 162. 

umna, riser; 7, 109, xto, 131, 151. 

Juno, a Roman deity ; 105. 

Jupiter, a Roman deity; 4, uS. 

Kabandha, an Asura; 123, 126. 

Kacha, son of Brahuvpati ; 83, £9, 133. 

Kadru, one of the wives ol Kasyapa : 131. 

Kaikcyi, child wife of Dasaratha ; 28, sg, 30, 123. 

Kailas, a myticul mountain ; 38, 40, 45, 53, 54, 55, 83, 84, 
141, 194. 29s. 

Kal or ltala, Time ; 13, 56. 

Kalaka, an evil minister ; iSi, 183. 

K a l ancm l, an Asura ; 124. . 

Kalaraticc, a goddess ; 55. 

ICalaratriya Mantra ; 56. 

Kalasutra, a hell ; 93. 

Kalavinka, a bud ; 132. 

Kala Yavana, an Asura ; 87. 

ICall, a goddess ; 5, 21, 56, 37, 38. 

Kafi, evil spirit of Kaliynga ; 144, 143, 146, 147. 

Kalidasa, a poet; 148, 

Kahka Parana ; 56. 

Kakadi, a river ; 33, 131. 

Kali) a, a serpent ; 35, 131. 

Kaliyuga, the age of Kali ; 16, 17, 33, 36, 43, 144, 147. 

Kalki, nn incarnation of Vishnu ; 17, i3, 25, 37. 

Kal pa, a Day of Brahma ; 15, t6, 17, 64, 176, 177. 

Kal pa, a mythical division ol space ; 200. 

Kalpatita, a mythical division of space ; 200. 

Kal pa Vnksha, boon granting tree ; 193. 

Kama, god of love ; 4, 45, 103, 104, in, 139. 

Kamadevas, Jain holy men ; 197. 

K a m ad h enu, a boon granting cow ; 23, 43, 67, 91, 129. 
Ka m a k shi, a goddess ; 56. 

Kama!, a name of Lakshmi ; 14. 

Kamala, Lakshmi ; 58. 
iCnfnaT-vsana, a name of Brahma ; 23. 

Kambala. a serpent : >30. 

Kanakaniiinl, a Buddha ; 173. 

Karvsa, an Asura king ; 33. 34, 33, 82, 86. 

Kan taka, horse of the Buddha ; 163, 168. 

Kanva, a sago; 147. 

Kanya. a sign of the Zodiac ; 113. 

Kanjakubja, a City : 149. 

Kapila, a sago; 13*- 

Kapdavasthu, a city ; 163, i63, 171, 172. 

ICapinjala, a bud 5 132. 

Karma; 13, 47, 1S6, i$3, 1S9, 192, 

Kama, a demi-god ; 71. 73, 75. 76, 78, 60. 

Kaxthavirva. a king ; 18, 29, 68. 

Kartdc, a lfindu mouth ; 134. 

Kartikcja. god of war; 4, 44, 43. S;. 114, X«9. 13S. 

KasI, Benares ; 86, 115, >93. 

Kasyaps. a Buddha; 175, 

Kasyapa. a sage ; *3. *7. 4®. 3*. 64. 65. 67. S«. «4» *3°. *3*. 
Katha, story t e lli ng ; 6, 142. 


Kaumari, a goddess ; 61. 

Kanndinya, a Buddha ; 175. 

Kauravas, sons of Dhntarashtra ; 33, 34, 41, 65, 69, 73, 77, 

78.79,80. 3 «• 

Kausalya. wife ol king Dasaratha ; 30, 31. 

KaosamU, a city ; 1S0. 

Kansitaka Brahman a ; 94 
Kansitaka Upamshad ; 94. 

Kaiuthabha, a jewel ; 91. 

Kesava, a name of Vishnu ; ill. 

Kesm, an Asura ; 33, 44. 

Kesini, a queen ; ijz. 

Ketu, the descending nodo ; 91. It8, J20. 

Kevahn. a liberated being ; 187. 

Kfcandckrao, Khandoba, legend of , 131. 

Kkandcgya Upanukad , 3, 

Khar a, on Asura ; 30, 31, 32. 

Khillats, distribution of , 133 
Khudiru, a plant : 119. 

Kinoaras. heavenly musicians , 19, 64, 69, 70, 122. 

Kirk, a sign of the Zodiac ; 1 15. 

Kish kind hi, an ancient kingdom . 126, 127. 

Kitticum, a dower . 103. 

Knowledge, kinds of ; 192. 

Kohs, a people ; 172. 

Konagamana, a Buddha ; 175. 

Krakucchanda, a Buddha ; 173. 

Krimibhojana, a hell ; 93. 

Krishna, incarnation of Vishnu , 6, 21,23,33-36, 38,66, ;S-6o. 
82, 85, 86, 87, si3, 99, 109.111, u3, IJt. 134, 135, Ijl, 
142, 130. 

Kntayuga. a mythical age . 16, 19. 

Kntu, a Prajapatl ; 64,65. 

Kronas ; 17. 

Kshatnya, warrior caste ; »6, 27, 28, 67, 68, 75, 87, 1 36, iho, 
189. 

Kuan Yin. Chinese Uodhisatv a; >76. 

Kutcra, god of wealth ; 44, 50, 65, 82, 83, 96, 122, 162. 177. 
K'ulakaras, Jam holy men , 197- 
Kulmara Tansta ; 108. 

Kulika, a mythical serpent , 130. 

Kumara, a name of KArUkey a . 44. 45* 

Kumarapala, a lung ; >87. 

Kumbha, a sign of tho Zodiac ; * * 5- 
Kumbhakarna, a demon ; 32, 82, 84, 85, 126. 

Kumbhipaka. a hell . 93. 

Kuntanatha, a Tirthankara ,196. 

Kunti, mother of the Pandavas : 71. 73, 76, 77, 78, 87,88, »J5* 
Kura a, tortoise incarnation of Vishnu , 23, 91. 

Kurukshetra, a place ; 78, 10 1. 

Kusa, grass . 97. **». >3«. >34* 

Kushans; 173. 

Kusinagra, an ancient city , 174. 

Kytabh, a name of Vuhnu , 13. 

Lakshman, half brother of Kama . 24. *8. a?. 3<>. J». 3*. 
83.123.126,132. 

Lakshmi, a goddess . 2j, 24. 1 ). 34. 3*', 57. 3®. 39. 9». > 3% 

Lakthroiodra. son of Chand Solagar , 62, 63. 

1 ai. ts panchanu, a Hindu (estival ; 136. 

Lanka, ancient name of Ct > loo , 18, 29, 30. 46, y>, 33, 6y, 
82. 83. 84. 65. «*4. 127. «3J. *37. 

Leo, s gn ol Ike Zodiac . 1 13 
Libido ; »°S- 

Ltbra, sign of the Z«liac . 1 13. 

Lingam, sy mbol of Shiva . 22. 4 1. 57. *3. fi 4. V*. ,tf 7. «<**• 

239. *4°. , J*- 
Lrngayats. a s«*. >*'’■ 

Lubdhaka. a huntrr . 13#, 1 41 

Lucifer, si. 

Lumlxni, tsithp-Uce of the Buddha. I63, «7*. 

Lunus. a Roman doty , 4. 


Msdar. * 


suentaui . ii. 



so6 


EPIC S, MYTHS AND LEGENDS 


INDIA 


Aladhava, a name of Vishnu ; lit. 

Stadoana; S. 

Madras ; 27, 139. 

Madri, a queen ; 71. 

Madya, liquor ; io3. 

Magadha, an ancient dty ; 37, 168 . 186. 

Afagh or Maghm a Hindu month ; 139, 142. 

MaHabalipuram, an anaent City; 2 7. 

Mokabkarata ; 5 $ 16. 38, 2 3 , 24, 40, 41, 43, 48, 64, 70-80, 
106, 123, 148. 

Mahabrahma, a Buddhist deity ; 163. 

Mahadeva, a name of Shiva ; 4, 41. 45, I El. 

Slahakala, a deity ; 162. 

Mahakalt, a goddess ; 162. 

Mah am aya, mother of the Buddha , tCt, 163, 164. 
Mahapralaya. great cataclysm . IS- 
Maharajahs, Boddhist deities . 177. 

Maharathas ; 45. 138, 151. 

Maharshi, great sage ; £>9. 

Mahasanka, a mythical serpent . 130. 

Mahasbubhadha, a cos/ elephant . 181 . 

Mahatatwa, the great reality : 13. 

Mahavira, Vardhamana, see Vardbamana Milam. 
Mahayana, a sect ; 175,176. 

Mahayuga. the great ago ; 16, 17, 18. 

Mahendra, a mountain ; 124, 

Mahesa, a name ol Shiva . 58. 

Alaheswan, a goddess ; 61. 

Mahisha, buffalo demon . 54, 56, 138. 

Maithuna , jo 3. 

Maitreya or Metteya, Bodhisatva . 175, 176, 177. 

Makara, a mythical fish , 50, 103, 115, izo. 
hlalabax , 17. 

Malagiri, an elephant ; 173. 

Malaya; m. 

Mall, an Asura , 151. 

Mali as, a clan . 174. 

Mallinatba, a Tirthankara , 196. 

Alalyadcva, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Manasa, a goddess . 61, 62, 63. 

Mandara, a mountain , 24, 31. 9°. 

Mandaravati, story of, 149-150. 

Mandhata. a king ; 87. 

Mandodan, wife of Ravana ,124. 

Mangala, a Buddha ; 175- 
Mangala, a planet ; 118,119. 

Mam, an Asura ; 151. 

Mamchees, a Persian religious sect ; 3. 

Mamcburna, Mountain ; 151. 

Mansa, flesh ; 108. 

Manthara, the wicked maidservant , 29. 

Mantra, incantation ; |6, 32, 

Alanu, code of ; 13, 69, 70, 19S. 

Manu, world teacher ; 18, 19, 34, 64. 63, 119, 173. 
Manwantara, reign ot a Manu ; 18, 64, 173. 

Mara, love god ; 169,170. 

Margashirsha, a Hindu month ; 141. 

Mi mmiM n, a minor goddess I fix. 

Mancha, a demon ; 30, 32. 

Manchi, a sage ; 64, 63. 

Ma rkan deya, a sage ; t8, 96. 

Markandeya Pur an a ; 38. 

Marquis de Sade ; 206. 

Mars; 4, 118. 

Marat, wind god : it, 51, 122, 123. 

Matsya, fish ; 108. 

Matsya, fish incarnation ; 24. 

Matsya Parana ; 22, 42. 

Max Muller ; 3, 4, 5. 

Maya, illusion ; 6, 7, 14, 15, 2*, 23, 38. 

Maya, Mayadevi, wife of Snddhodhana ; see Alabama) a, 
Mayasura, an architect , 76. 

Media, ancient Persia ; z. 

Mediterranean; x, 2, 5, 105. 

Meena, a sign of the Zodiac , 115. 


Mena, wife of I lima van ; 53. 

Mer.aka. an Apsara ; 70, 147, 14S. 

Men of Bronte; 27, 

Men of Gold ; 17. 

Men of Iron ; 1 7. 

Men of Silver; 27. 

Mercury; 220. 

Mem, a mythical mountain ; 19, 32, 123, 177, 190, 
Alesha, a sign of the Zodiac ; 1 13. 

Methu, an Asura ; 15. 

Metteya ; 6ee Maitreya. 

MhalsabaJ, wife of Khandehrao ; 131. 

Minerva ; 4. 

Alira. a dev otec of Krishna : Hi. 

Mitbila, an ancient kingdom ; 29, 

Mithun, a sign cf the Zodiao ; 115. 

Mitra, an Aditya ; 114. 

Mitra, Itajendralala ; 97. 

MIecchas, barbarians ; 87. 

MohinJ, a female form of Vishnu , 91. 92- 
Mongois , 7. 

Moor, E- , 107. 

Muchukunda, a warrior . 87. 

Mudra. corn , 108. 

Muir. Dr. . 12,48. 

Afunda, an Asura , 33. 

Mundane Egg ; 13, 22, 58. 

Abmi. a sago , 13. 

Mumsavarata, a Tirthankara , 197, 198. 

Murocca tree . 149, 130. 

Muslim . 7, 92. 

Afuthra, Mathura, a city ; 33, 34, 33, 87. 

Mutinus, a Phalhc emblem ; 1C5. 

Myhtta, Babyloman goddess ; IC3. 


Kagapafichami, a Hindu festival ; 131. 

N'agas, serpent race ; 7, 130, 169. 

Kagastra, & load of weapon ; t32. 

Nagkcscr, a flower ; 103. 

Naksbatxas. astensms : 12 6. 

Kabul*. a Panda va pnnee ; 72, tot. 

XaU, a king ; 243-14;. 

Nala, a monkey ; 222, 228. 

Nammatha, a Tirthankara ; 197. 

Nan da, a herdsman ; 34. 

Nanda or Ananda, the Buddha's disciple; 164, 17 2 * 
Nandi, the bull of Shiva ; 41, 54, 113- 
Nandi m, a mythical cow ; 129. 

Nara, waters; 12, 13. 

Narada, a Buddha ; 175. 

Narada, a sage ; 22, 36, 64, 66, 84, 87, 99. 1°°. i«4* ,2, » 
133. 135. J4I-M3. 153. J5<* 

Karadas, Jain holy men ; 196. 

Narakaloka, hell ; 94. 

N'arakasura, a demon ; 238. 

Narah Purmma, a festival , 236. 

Kaiasimha, an incarnation of Vishnu ; 24, 26. 
Xarasimhi, a goddess ; 61. 

Karayana, a name of Vishnu ; 1, 2, 12-15, 2r » 2 5* 59* 95* 
121. 134. 

Narayanas, Jain holy men ; 197. 

Nathuram, effigy of, 139. 

Navaratra, a festival ; 236, 137. 

Neminatha, a Tirthankara ; 297. 

Neptnnns ; 4. 

New Year Day, Hindu ; 138. 

Nikasaya. a Tirthankara . 198. 

Nila, a monkey chief ; 122. 

Nile ; 5, 205. 

Nirmama, a Tirthankara ; 193. 

Nunta, a Vedic deity ; 51, 99. 

Nirvana, liberation ; 162, 169-174, 176, 188, 292, *94- 
Nvshadha, kingdom of Nala ; 143, 144, X47. 

Nisumbha, an Asura ; 35. 



GLOSSARY AND INDEX 


207 


Nisupataka, a Tirthankara ; 198. 
Niyoga, levixate ; 71. 

Noah’s Arfc ; 19. 

North Pole ; 66. 


Olympian ; 27. 

Qnam, a festival ; *7. 

Osins, Egyptian deity ; 4, 105. 


Paccula Min i a. a Roman lady ; 106. 

Padma, a Buddha ; 175. 

Padmala. a name of Lakshml ; 58. 

Padmam. lotus ; 14, 23, 57. 

Padmanabha, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Padmanatha, a name of the deity ; 15. 

Padmapaoi, a Bodhisatva ; 176. 

Padmottara, a Buddha ; 175. 

Pah; 173. 

Pallas, a Greek goddess ; 52. 

Palya, a mythical time division ; 193, 199. 

Panehabana, a name of Kama ; 103. 

Panchala, a kingdom ; 73, 76. 

Panchali, a pnncess ; 73-77. 

Fancha Faramcsbtm, Jain saints ; 192. 

Panchatatwas, the Five Tatwas ; 10S. 

Pandavas, the Five Princes ; 33, 35, 41, 65, 69, 74. 73-81, 
86,87, 1 Of. 

Pardharpur, seat of Vithobha ; 151. 

Pandu, a king ; 71, 86, 

Pannagas, mythical serpents ; 16. 

Paradise : 17, 48, 94, 176. 

Parameshti, a name of Brahma , 22. 

Parasu, axo ; 27. 

Parasurama, incarnation of Vishnu ; 24, 27, 43, 68, 73, 80. 
Parasvanatha Hill ; 186, J94, 195, 19b. 

Parasvanatha, Tirthankara ; 186, i83, 194, 193. »97- 
Parijata, tree ; 91, 135. 

Farimrvana, decease ; 175. 

Parj any a, an Aditya; 114. 

Parvati, a goddess ; 38, 40, 42, 43, 53-5<». »°4« to 7> ll 9. M». 
142, 132, X54. 

Fatal a, nether world ; 15, 83, 130, 131. 

Patallputra, an ancient city ; 175. 

Pava, Patna; 186, 187. 

Pavaka, a name of fire god ; 48 

Pavan or Pavana, wind god ; 51, 124, 123. 

Pedkala, a luthankara , 198. 

Peepal tree ; 135. 

Persia; 3, 175. 

Phalgun, a Hindu month ; 139. 

Phallus worship ; 5, 108. 

Pillars of Hercules, Gibralter ; 2. 

Pisces ; *15. 

Pitamaha, a name of Brahma ; 13, 22, 23. 

Pltns, manes ; 48, 64, 69, 116, 138, 

Pleiades ; 45, 64, 66, 67. 

Pluto ; 50. 

Pollux; 4. 

Pot ear ; see Kumbha kara a. 

Potda, a Tirthankara ; 19S. 

Prachetas or Daks ha, a Prajapati ; 64* 65- 
Pradyumna, incamaticn of Kama , 104. 

Prahlad or Prahlada, a devotee of Vishnu ; 26, 82 
Prajapati, a name of Brahma ; 4, 13, 24, 25, 38. 

Prajapati, wife of Suddhodhana ; 164, 172. 

Erajapatis, creators of mankind ; 64-66. 

Plajna, transcendental wisdom ; 176. 

Praknti, nature ; 13, l83. 

Pralaya, cataclysm ; 18. 

Prahhasa, a Yasu ; 69. 

Prascna, a Yadava; 127, 138, 142. 

Pratinarayanas, Jam saints ; 197. 

Prativasudevas, Jam saints; 197- 
Pratyckabuddhas, individual Buddhas ; 177- 


Pratyush, a Vasu ; 69. 

Prayaga, aaty; xS6. 

Premapuri, a city ; 151. 

Preta, ghost ; 177. 

Priapus, a phalhc god ; 103. 

Primal Father ; 17. 

Prime Lord ; 12. 

Prime Person ; 13. 

Pnthu, an incarnation of Vishnu ; 117, 118. 

Pnthvi, personification of the Earth , 43, 117, itS. 
Priyadarsui, a Buddha ; 173. 

Pnyakanai, a queen , 189. 

Pu ] a, ceremony ; 108, 133, 14 1. 

Pulaha, a sage , 64, 63, 96. 

Pulastva, a sage , 30, 64, 63, 82. 

Pundalik, a Brahmin ; 131. 

Punjab . 139, 152. 

Puranas, Hindu scnptures ; 5, 6, 7, 12, 17, 19, n. 22, 34, 38, 
42, 46, 30, 92, 94, 97, 107, 114, 1 16, 122, 132. 

Purandhara, name of reigning Indra , 47. 

Puri, a city , 130, 151. 

Puiocha n a, an accompbce of Duryodhana , 75. 

Purusha, the male principle . 12, iS3. 

Purusba Sukta hymn ; 11. 

Purva, a mythical time division ; 193, 199. 

Pushan, a name of Sun ; 60, 68. 

Pnshan, a Vedic deity , 52, 91. * «4- 
Pushkar, a lake ; 22. 

Pushkara, a prince; 144, 146, 147. 

Pushpadanta, a Tirthankara , 195, 

Pushpaka, a celestial car , 50, 83, 127. 

Pushya, a Buddha ; 175. 

Putana, a fiend , 34, 139. 


Ra, an Egyptian solar deity ; 4. 

Rad ha, the beloved of Krishna . 109, no, 111. 

Radha Krishna cult ; 109-11 1. 

Rahu, the ascending node . 91, n 8, 120. 

Rahuia, son of the Buddha ; 166, 171, 172. 

Ran a ta, a Buddha ; 173. 

Raivata, a Manu ; 64. 

Rajagnha, an ancient city ; 168, J7»> 

Kajanya, Kshatny a , ix. 

Kajarslu, royal sage ; 69. 

Rajas, a quality , 13. 

Rajasuya, a sacrifice , 116. 

Rajeshwan, a goddess , 50. 

Rajput; 112,136. 

Rakhi Punuma, a festn al ; <36- 

Rakshasa, demon; 13, 16, 19, 29-3*. 5*. 8 >. S2. *5. ”3- 

Rakshast, demoness , 31. 

Raktavira, an Asura ; 57. 

Rama, Ramachandra, incarnation of v ishnu , 6, 24, 27-32 
47. 59. Sr, Si. Sj, 112-115, **7r *37' *3 S ' 

Ramachandra ; see Rama. 

Ramanavami, a festival ; 142. 

Jtamayana ; 5, 23, 27, 32, 46, 47, 51, 82, 122, 132, 142. 
Rambha, an Apsara ; 70. 

Rangapanchami, festival ; 139- 
Rasa Lila, the dance of lose ; 21, no. 

Rati, goddess of lose ; 46, 103, 104, 139. 

Ratnapam, a Bodhisatva ; J76. 

Ratnaprabha, a hell ; 199. 

Ratnasambhava. a Buddha : 175, 176. 

Raurava, a hell ; 93- _ 

Havana, the demon king of Lanka ; 28, 29, 32, 46, 31, 39, 63, 
81-85, 122, 124. 126, J27. *37- *3 8 - 
Ravi, the sun ; nS, 119. 

Ravivara, Sunday , 119- 
Rcnuka, wife of jamadagm . 63. 

R,g xeda ; 5. 6. n. 12. 38. 43- * 6 ‘ *>. Sl ’ 93. 9b 97. *»3-nj. 
*33- 



20 S 


EPiCS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF INDIA 


Hishyamukha, a mountain ; 126. 

Rituparna, a king ; 145-147. 

Robidas, son oi Hanschandra : 155-157. 

Rohim, a river ; 172. 

Robmi, favourite wife of Chandra , 1x6. 

Robtni, wife of Yasudeva ; 34. 

Roman ; 4, 5, 7, 105. 

Roxburg ; 133. 

Roy, Raja Ram Mohan ; 20. 

Uudra, a deity ; 13, 38, 43, 47, 60, 

Rudraka, a sophist : >68, 170. 

Rudras, a group of Hindu deities ; 69. 

Rudras, Jam holy men ; 197. 

Rukmini. chief queen of Krishna; 35, S3, 83,86, 104, 134, 135. 
Ruru, a mythical animal ; 95. 

Sabiao women ; 103. 

Sadbu, ascetic ; 193. 

Sadyurnna, a mythical bi-sexual character ; 119. 

Sagara, a king ; 13*. 153. 

Sagara, a mythical time division ; >93. >99- 
Sagaropama, a mythical time division ; 193, 199. 

Sagittarius; 115. 

Sahadeva, a prince ; 71, tot. 

Saka, Sakra, India , >6z, 169, 177, 178, 179, 183. 

Sakti , See Shakta. 

Sakum, a master gambler , 76, 77. 

Sakyas, a clan , x6i, 169, 172. 

Salagrama, Shahgrama, stone , 97, 134- 
Sal tree ; 163, 174. 

Sanaa Veda , 5, 115. 

Samantabhadra, a Bodhisatva ; 176. 

Samba, Son of Krishna . 33. 

Sambhavanatha, a Tirthankara , 194. 

Samjamam, a Yogic system : 59- 
Sampati, a mythical vulturo, 124, 132. 

Samprati, a king , 187, 1S8. 

Samudra, the ocean . 54, 122. 

Samvaranatha, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Sauaka, a sage , 13. 

Sananda, a sage ; 13. 

Sana ta rusts, orthodox Hindus ; 20. 

Sanatkumara, a sage . 13. 

Sam, Saturn ; 42, xr8, 120, X55, 136. 

Sanjana, wife of Surya , 114. 

Sankha, a mythical serpent ; 130. 

Sankhachurna, a mythical serpent ; 130. 

Sankhya, a system of philosophy ; 20, i83, 

Sanskrit , 4, 59, H5- 
Santana, a sage ; 13. 

Santinatha, a Tirthankara ; 196. 

Santusita, Bodhisatva ; 178. 

Saptamatrikas, Seven Mothers ; 61. 

Saptarshis, Seven Sages ; 64, 66, 69. 

Sarameya, or Surameya, Yama's dog ; 97. 

Saras vati, a goddess ; 4, 22, 58-60, 66, 85, 133, 141, 142, 144, 
>5«. >53- . , , 

Sarasvati Puja, a festival ; 60. 

Sanputra, disciple of the Buddha ; 172. 

Sarvabhnti, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Satakirti, a Tirthankara ; 198. 

Satapatha Brahman a : 24, 25, 94. 

Satarupa, a name of Sarasvati ; 22. 

Sati, Shiva’s spouse ; 38, 39, 40, 45, 53- 
Sati, widow burning ; 108. 

Satrajit, a Yadava ; >27,128. 

Saitughna, half brother of Rama ; 28. 

Saturn; 42, 118, 155. 

Saturnalia; 139. 

Satwa, a quality ; 13. 

Satyabhama, wife of Krishna. ; 1 28, 134, 135. 

Satyavan, pnnee ; 09, ioo, xox. 

Satyavati, wife of Shantanu ; 70, 71. 

Satyavrata, a Manu ; 64. 

Satyuga, 16, 


Saurabhi, a mythical cow; 91, 129, 

Saurapathas, a sect ; 115. 

Saurasa, a demoness : 124. 

Sauvana, grandson of the Buddha ; 172. 

Savitri, a name of Sarasvati ; 23, 99. 

Savitrf, a princess j 99, too, tot. 

Savitnpati, a name of Brahma ; 22. 

Scandinavian myths ; 3. 

Scorpio; 115. 

ScylU; 53. 

Semitic group of religions ; 4, xr, 17, 20. 

Seven, sacred number ; JI7. 

Seven Mothers ; see saptamatrikas. 

Shivas, a sect ; 7, 21, 38. 57, 115. 

Shakta, Sakta, Shakti, a goddess ; 7, 53, 57, 109, 176. 
Shaktas, Saktas, a sect ; 10S, 115. 

Shakuntala, wile of Dushyaota ; 147, 148. 

Shambhara, an Asura ; IC4. 

Shankh, conch shell sacred to Vishnu ; 23. 

Shantanu, a king ; 70, 71. 

Sbashti, a goddess , 130. 

Shashtimatnya, a name of Kartikeja ; 45, 

Shastras, branch of Hindu sacred literature , 81, 125. 
Shesha, a name oi Ananta ; 17, 19, 23. 33, 35. 4<’» 5>» 5 8 - 
Skikhandm, a eunuch ; 79. 

Shishana, Phallus , 106. 

Shishupala, an enemy of Krishna , 35, 81, 82, 85. 88. 
Shitala, a goddess : 6x. 

Shiva, a ged , 4, 7, 20-24, 37'43. 45. 53. 54. 57. 8 >. 8 3- 8 *. 9°» 
91. 9*. 96, 103, 104, 107. 1 14, 138, 139, 140, 142, 151, 153« 
Shivaloka, the abode ol Shiva ; 140. 

SAma Parana ; 44. 

Sluvaratra, Shivaratri, a festival , 139. 

Shoshunu, a weapon . 56. 

Shraddha, a ceremony . 69, 97, 98. 

Shravan, a Hindu month; 131, 135, 136, 142, >91- 
Shravana Belgola ; 187. 

Skravai Jtfokoimya ; 13s. 

Siddhartha, a Buddha ; 175, 178. 

Siddhartha, father of Mahavira ; 180. 

Siddhartha, prince ; x6i, 162, 164-170. 

Siddhas, semi-mythical being* ; 19, 69, 192, 200. 

Siddbasila, a mythical division of space ; aco. 

Siddhi, wife of Gancsba ; 44, 45. 

Sikhrn, a Buddha ; 173. 

Smnha; 106. 

Sindhu, nver Indus ; 152. 

Smha, sign of the Zodiac ; 113. 

Sita, heroine of Ramayana ; 6, 29-33, 5 s . 59. I2 4> *3*- 
Sitalanatha, a Tirthankara ; 195. 

Skanda, a name of Kartikeya ; 45. 

Skanda Parana ; 36, 43. 

Smartbas, a sect ; 115, 

Smnties, sacred traditions ; 5, 6. 

Sobhita, a Buddha ; 175. 

Sol ; 4. 

Solomon, King; 194. 

Soma, a drink ; 6, 46, 93, 132, 133. 

Soma, a plant ; 133. 

Soma, the moon; 69, jiG, ng, 

Somadatta, a Brahmin ; 191. 

Soruavansa, lunar dynasty of king* ; 65, 70, 

Somnath, a shrine ; 43. 

Sonuttara, a hunter . 18 r, 182, 

South India ; 24,45, >22, >39. * 8 7- 
Soviet Russia ; 2. 

Sreyamsanatha, a Tirthankara ; 195, 

Sri, a name of Lakshml ; 4, 59, 153, 190. 

Snvasti, a place ; 171, 194. 

Srutis, branch of Hindu sacred literature ; 5. 

Strabo; 105. 

Stupa; 175. 

Subhadra, sister of Krishna ; 77, 251, 

Subrahmanya, name of Kartikeya , 45. 

Suchimukha, a bell ; 93. 



GLOSSARY AND IXOZX 


20$ 


Suddbamu. a Jain Saint : 187. 

Suddhodana, king : i6r, 163, 164, 163, 167, 169, 171, 172. 
Sudra, fourth caste : it, 16, 106, 136. 

Sufis ; I eg. 

Sufism ; 7- 

Suenva, a monkey chief ; 31. St, 122, 124-127. 

So fata, a Buddha ; 175. 

Sujata, a lady devotee of the Buddha : 168. 

Sula, a sage : 69, 11S. 

Sukra, preceptor of the Asuras; 83, 120, 133. 

Sukramukha, a hell ; 93. 

Sumadhi, a Tirthankara ; 19S. 

So m ala, a demon ; 31, 

Sumanas, a Buddha ; 173. 

Sumatinatha, a Tirthankara ; 194. 

Sumbba, an Asura ; 53. 

Sumodha. a Buddha ; 173. 

Sumcdha, a Bodhlsatva ; 173, 

Sumitra, a queen ; 28. 

Sun ", see Surya. 

Sundernaud, a prince ; 165. 

Sunitl, a queen ; 121. 

Suparsvanatba. a Tirthankara ; 195, 198. 

Supreme Being; 20, at, 59. 65. 66, St. 9*. >76- 
Sura, liquor ; 8>, 82, 91. 

Surabhi ; see Saurabhi. 

Suradeva, a Tirtliankara ; 19S. 

Surpanakha. a demoness ; 30. 

Suiya, the Sun; 4,50,71, 83, 91, 113, 114, 115, 118-120, 125. 
127. 

Suryavansa, solar d) nasty of kings : 63, 152. 

Susama, a mythical time division ; 193, 194, >97, 199. 
Sushcna, a monkey; 122, uS. 

Suvidhitutha, a Tirthankara ; 195. 

Swadha, a goddess ; 98, 129- 
Swaha, a goddess ; 44, 66, 129, 

Swarochisha, a Mann ; 64. 

Swastika, a symbol; 115, 195- 
Swayambhu, a name of Brahma : 21. 

Swayambhuva, a Manu ; 64. 

S nay aro vara, a form of marriage ; 38. 143, 144, 146, 147. 
Sweta, a mythical serpent ; 130. 

Switambaras, a Jain sect ; 187, 188-190, 195, 196. 
Syamantaka, a jewel ; 127, 141. 

Syria; 105. 

TatUartya Brahmana ; 25. 

Talcs haka, a mythical serpent ; 83. 

T ama. , a quality ; 13. 

Tamasa, a Manu ; 64. 

Tamisra, a hell ; 94. 

Tanmatras; 13. 

Tantras, scriptures of Tantrics ; io3. 

Tan tries, a sect ; toS, tog, t6i, tj6, 

Taptasormi, a hell; 93. 

Tara, a goddess ; 163. 

Tara, a monkey chief ; 122. 

Tara, wife of Brahaspati : 116,117,119. 

Tara gam, a forest ; 40. 

Taraka, a demon ; 44, 45. 

Taramati, a queen ; 155, 156, 157. 

Taurus; IX 5- 

Tavatimsa, a heaven; 173, 177. 

Thebes J 17. 

Thilothama, an Apsara ; 70. 

Third Council of Buddhism ; 175. 


Tiber; iot>. 

Tirtha, order ; 187. 

Tirthankaras, world teachers ; 186, 187, i$3, 192. 
Tishya, a Buddha ; 175. 

Titans ; *. 

Tittirl, a bird ; 132. 

Tod, Col; 136. 

Trayatimsa ; see Tavatimsa heaven. 


Triad, Hindu ; 4, 11, 21, 114. * ^ 

Tnkadruka, an ancient festival ; 46. 
Trinity, Hindu ; 20, 46, 3i, 115. 
Trisala, a queen ; 189, 190. 

Trojan War ; 79. 

Troy; 17. 

Tula, a sign of the Zodiac ; 115. 
Tulsi plant, 134, 135. 

Tusita heaven ; 169, 176, 177, 178. 
Tuashtr, Twashtri, a god ; 52, 114. 
TyphoD, a god , 4, 103. 


Uchchaisravas, mythical horse ; 44, 46, 91. 
Udayaprabhu, a Tirthankara , 198. 

Udghita, the mystic syllable AUM , 1 15. 

Ugrasena, a king . 33, 35. 36. 

Ujjain, an anaent city ; 148. 

Ulysses ; 2. 

Uma. a goddess ; 41, 45, 33 , 54. 83, 84. 

Upaddhyayas, Jam saints , 192. 

L'pamshad . 5, 11, 94, 162. 

Urumbasa, a kind of grass , 120. 

Urvasi, an Apsara ; 50, 70. 

Usha, a princess , 104. 

Ushanas, Sokra ; 88, 89, 120. 

Ushas, the Uawn ; 4, 38, 115, 116. 

Utsarpmi, a mythical tuno division ; 192, 194, 197, 193. 
Uttaroi, a Manu ,64. 


Vach. a name of Sarasvati ; 59, 133. 

Vaikhalya, a sage , 133. 

Vaikunta, heaven of Vishnu ; 23, 42, 58, 99, 141. 
Yairochana, a Dhyani Buddha ; 176. 

Voisakh, a Hindu month ; 129. 

Vaisali, an ancient city ; 168, 1S6. 

Vaishnavas, a sect ; 7, 21, 23, 24, 37, 1x5. 

Vaishnavi, a goddess ; 6t. 

Vaisravana, a name of Kubtra ; 50, 177, 191. 

Vaisya, the trader caste , ix, 16, 136. 

Vaitaram, a hell ; 93. 

Vaira, India's weapon , 46. 

Vairakantaka, a bell ; 95. 

VairapanJ, a Bodhisatva ; 176. 

Valmikl, a sage , 82, 122. 

V a m a n a, dwarf incarnation of Vishnu ; 24, 25. 

Vamana Put ana ; 103. 

Vanaras, monkeys ; 126. 

Varaha, boar incarnation of Vishnu ; 24, 25. 

Varaha Parana ; 43. 

Varahi, a goddess , 61. 

Vardhamana Mahavira. founder of Jainism ; 186, 187. 

Vania r, castes ; j ?6, 

Varuna, a god ; 4, II, 49, 30, 60, 65, 66, 83, 99, 114, 122, 136, 
143, 146, 

VarunJ, goddess of wine , 91. 

Vasanta, spnng ; 45, 103. 

Vasantapanchaml, a festival ; 142. 

Vasi5th2, a sage ; 64, 67, 68, rig, 120, 123, 156. 

Vasudeva, a name of the deity ; 13, 32, 33, 34. 

Vasudeva, father of Krishna ; 86. 

Vosudevas, Jain holy men ; 197. 

Vasuki, a mytliical serpent , 83, 90, 130, 131. 

Vasupujya, a Tirtha nk a r a ; 195. 

Vasus, a group of duties ; 60, 69, 70. 

Vayu, god of wind ; 51, 99, x 3 3- 
Vayu Parana; 23. 

Vedabha, a charm , 184. 

Vedanta, a school of philosophy ; 20. 

Vedas ; 5. 6, 16, 19-21, 22, 23, 35, 46, 5*. 60, 63, 69. 8», 92, 
94.95. 97. tl3, 115. 133. >5 2 » >85- 
Verna, a goddess ; 107. 

Vena, a wicked lung ; 1x7. 

Venus; 4, 37. >°5. >> 8 - 



El'lCS, MYTHS 


LECE>DS OF IMDJA 


ifo 


Ve tala, possessed corpse ; 149, 150, 

VibhUhma, brother o! Ravana ; jo, 31. 

Viehitravirya, a prince ; 7 x, 86. 

Vidarbha, a city; 35, 85, 86, 143, 145, 146. 

Videlia, a kingdom ; 186. 

Vidura, a sage ; 75. 

Vijaya, an attendant of Vishnu ; 82, 86. 

Vijaya, a Tirtliankara ; 198. 

Vijaya, wile ol Yama ; 50. 

Vikramaditya, a legendary king ; 138, 148. 

Vikxama era ; 138, 148, 149, 130. 

VimaLanatba, a Tirthankara ; J93. 

Vimba, a tree ; ttl. 

Vina, a musical instrument ; 60, 66. 

Vmata, a wife of ICasyapa , 67, 131. 

Vinayakas, a group of deities ; 43. 

Vindhy a mountains , 54. 

Vipasyin, a Baddha ; 173. 

Viraj, the mythical progenitor of mankind : 13, 64. 

Virgo; 115, 

Viruddlialca, a Buddhist duty ; 177. 

Virupaksha, a Buddhist godhng ; 177. 

Vishnu, a god : 4, 7, 20, 21, *3, 40, 42, 37-59, 81-83, 88, 90, 
91,91, 96, 99. 1 04. 114. 1x7, no, 131, 132, 134. 141, 14a, 
130. iji. 

Vishnu, Avatars of ; 24-36, 91. 

Vitknit Parana , 5, 23, 25, 36, 38, 59, 69, 109, 114, 116, 131, 
Visvabhu, a Buddha ; 175. 

Visvapasi, a Bodhisatva, 176. 

Viswadtvas, a group of deities ; 60. 

Viswakarma, architect of the gods , 4, 51, 52, 114, 122, 124, 
13*. 130. 

Viswamitia, a sage ; 29,64,67,68,113,147, 13^,133,136,157 


Viswarupa, son of Viswakarma ; 132, 

VUhahagod; J51. 

Vithoba ; see VithaJ. 

Vivaswat, an aditya ; 114. 

Vrikodara, a name 0/ Bhima ; 83. 

Vnnila, wife of Jalandhar; 134. 

Vnndavan, a place ; 33, 109, m, 129. 

Viischika, a sign of the Zodiac ; 215. 

Yrishabha, a sign ol the Zodiac ; 115. 

Vulcan ; 4, 52. 

Vyasa, a sage ; 4 4, 45, 66, 69, 71. 

Y ad avis, a race ; 35, 36, 87. 

Yaiur Vtda ; 5, at. 

Yakshas, semi-mythical beings , 13, iC, Sr, 122, 

Yama, god of death ; 23, 50, 6r, 94, 95. 9 6 > 97« <00, 101, 1 14 
M3- 

Yamapuri, abode of Yama ; 50, 96, 99. 

Yami, wife or sister of Yama ; 61, 94. 

Yamuna, the river Jumna ; 5, 34, in, 

Yasapani. a king ; 182, 183 
Yasoda, foster mother of Krishna , 34. 

Yasodlura, a Tirthankara , 198. 

Yasodhara, wife of the Buddha . 101, 163, 165-168. 171, 172, 
178. 

Yoganidra, a goddess ; 34. 

Yoni, symbol of Shakti , 56* 106, 107, 108. 

Yomjas. worshippers of Yoni, 107. 108. 

Yuddhishtira, a prince , 41, 74, 76. 77. 78, 79, So, g,, g&, 101 
Yuga, age : 16. 

Zeus; 17. 

Zodiac, signs of ; 115.